Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Colorado has been on my bucket list forever.  I thought it would be a great place to visit with a baby - not too far away, amazing natural beauty, same language/ culture, not insanely expensive - so when Dave had a tournament outside of Denver this summer, we jumped on the chance to have our first family "vacation."

I put "vacation" in air quotes because this experience involved living out of a van and camping with a teething, non-sleeping baby.  And river baths. One of these days I'm going to get my fancy adult beverage with a little umbrella served to me on a tropical beach...

Where Did We Go?

Due to foul weather and our discovery that car naps are great, we ended up driving way more than intended.  We never planned on visiting the Steamboat Springs area, but it ended up being our favorite place on the trip.

Here's our route:

What Did We Do?

The usual:  camped every night (except for our tournament nights in an AirBnB), hiked many days, lived out of a sweet rented minivan.  Sort of like the soccer mom life... except way dirtier, and less Pinterest.

How Was Camping With A Baby?

Ok, I'll be honest:  the sleep thing was tough.  We tried 6 different night time arrangements (which means at least 6 nights of crappy sleep) before we found something that was even remotely satisfying:  KK on a sleeping pad on her own, KK on a sleeping pad behind a sheet, KK in a cardboard box with the sleeping pad on the bottom, KK in the box draped with a muslin blanket, KK next to Dave on her own sleeping pad, KK next to me on her own sleeping pad.

She and I eventually ended up on a queen-sized air mattress (bonus: nights were in the mid-thirties by that point, so she stayed cozy).  Dave and KK got great sleep, I got borderline acceptable sleep, but we did better overall as a family.

(Then we discovered that KK's Colorado souvenirs would be her first two teeth - that explained at least a little of the crappy nighttime sleep!)

Overall, camping with a baby wasn't much more difficult than camping without a baby.  KK isn't mobile yet, so when we got to camp, we'd plop her down on a sheet to play in the dirt while we set up camp.  She ate what we ate, plus a few easy baby snacks, and nursed more than usual due to teething.  She is very easy to entertain; she was content to tinker around with a small selection of easily packable toys, plus sticks/ stones/ leaves/ pinecones, plus a ton of attention from Mommy and Daddy.

How Was Hiking With A Baby?

Great!  KK does great in her Chariot.  For some reason, she never falls asleep on the way out or up, but she almost always snoozes on the way in or down.

We followed the same principles RE: altitude for a baby as for an adult:  take time to acclimatize, climb high/ sleep low, descend if you feel unwell.  (Babies can't tell you if they feel unwell, so I kept my eyes peeled for any behavioral changes.)  We went to 12,000' with no ill effects.

Even our hike in the cold rain went great.  Again, we followed the same principles for a baby as for an adult:  no cotton, cover your head, layer a weatherproof layer over an insulating layer.

How Was #VanLife With A Baby?

We would have been miserable in our Toyota Matrix. The rented minivan was the way to go, especially with a GINORMOUS wet tent, and cooking all of our meals on our camp stove (= grocery box), and bringing the jogging stroller with us (= naps during the tournament).

How Was Flying With A Baby?

We brought bribery chocolates for the flyers in the rows in front, behind, and to the side of us.

Didn't need them - Little Smiles was thrilled to have 175 new best friends.  She smiled at anyone who would look at her.  I was so worried about her disturbing other passengers that I played with her the entire time, tiring myself out, but really she was fine.

We flew Southwest, which was awesome - we checked 4 bags, plus 2 carry-ons, 2 personal items, a stroller, and a car seat.  The days of hopping on a flight with a toothbrush and my passport are over...

Do It Again?

Oh heck yeah.  We're already planning our next adventure!

Before KK arrived, Dave and I realized that we'd have to start with the basics again.  I would never feel comfortable taking a kid on an international trip focused on outdoor adventure if that kid had never worn a pack or hiked more than a mile.  My hope is that little adventures with a baby will lead to bigger adventures with an older child.

I also want to introduce KK to the woods when she's very young to normalize the presence of girls in the backcountry.  If she decides that she no longer wants to accompany Dave and I when she's older and can make her own decisions, that's just fine (really!).  But if we wait to introduce her to the outdoors once she is aware that world is dominated by boys and men, the likelihood that she'll ever feel comfortable there is certainly diminished.  And that would be a shame, because then she'd miss places like this:


And this!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Next Chapter (For This Blog)

I'm still not sure how much I want to share publicly about my family life.  On the one hand, my child deserves the right to privacy and anonymity until she's old enough to decide what to share for herself.  But it's difficult (impossible?) to talk about life in early motherhood without mentioning your kid.

I wish I knew more mothers who hike, camp, climb, and travel with their babies.  Real-life friends are the best (swap belays between breastfeeding, anyone?), but even stories from the virtual world could be a source of learning, solidarity, and connection.

So I'm going to share just a little.  From my perspective only - not speaking for my daughter.  Using one of her nicknames, "Kick-Kick" or KK, instead of her real name.  Adding a watermark to any photo in which she appears, so the photo can't be re- or misappropriated.

Most importantly, remembering that I am a parent in real-time for my daughter, not for this blog, or for an online photo album, or for social media.

(Though I will always believe you can never have too many baby pictures!)

the climber's DIY baby swing:  rope, trad draw, 2 biners, and a pull-up bar
(bicep pullups, not diaper pullups)
(baby not included)