Friday, April 28, 2017

Hawai'i or Bust: Adventure Travel with a Toddler

Summary of our trip:

No fancy adult beverages with a little umbrellas served to me on a tropical beach.

Come on, motherhood hasn't changed me that much. ;-)

kk gets her beverage - also sans little umbrella (i should make an album of epic nursing photos...)
We've been home a month and a half, and if I don't bang out a trip report right now, it's never going to happen. And I really do enjoy looking back and reminiscing about our dumb/ sketchy/ awesome adventures.

So let's do this. Q&A style. No edits or drafts, start to finish, in one take. Ready set go!

So how was Hawai'i?

Type 2 fun, all the way.

Where did you go?

We started on The Big Island. Made a big clockwise arc around the island, going north from Kona to Spencer Beach Park, up to Pololu Valley, down to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park via Hilo, then back to Kona via the Saddle Road and Mauna Kea. We camped at Spencer Beach Park and Namakanipaio campground (outside HVNP).

toddler's first hike!
Yes, we saw lava, from a distance.

what do a toddler and lava have in common?
Next, we went to Kauai. Camped at Salt Pond Park (3 nights), the unfortunately named Camp Slogett in Waimea Canyon (2 nights), Polihale State Park (1 night), Lydgate State Park (1 night).

did you know that kauai is infested with wild chickens? ear plugs not optional.
Overall, we moved around WAY too much. Way, WAY too much. But we definitely enjoyed our rad minivan rental! Can't wait to get myself one of these sweet rides. (Shut up, Tim.)

i probably should not post this online
How were the flights?

To Hawaii: 11 hours. We had an entire row, 6 seats, to ourselves (!). I hit up the dollar store and wrapped up little trinkets in tissue paper; these provided entertainment not just for the plane ride, but for the subsequent car rides, monsoon afternoons (see below), and hours in the backpack carrier. (We are bad parents.)

To New York: 9 hour red-eye. It was rough. I survived it the same way I survived labor and delivery: white knuckles and ruthless badassity. In other words, KK slept in the front-carrier, and I didn't move a muscle for 5+ hours.

at least someone is getting rest, part 1
February must have been a great time of year - escape the Northeastern winter!

The weather was amazing by Upstate NY standards and awful by Hawaiian standards. We spent some time highish up, so it was anywhere from 60-80 during the day to 35-50 at night. Most days had at least a little rain, which was fine... until the day we were stuck in a flipping monsoon, in a tent, with our toddler.

stake down that tent, holy smokes!
Speaking of that toddler, adventure travel with a toddler is HARD (but totally doable). One of us was always on kid duty, and the other was on camp duty, so there wasn't really any rest.

dave on kid duty; i'm on stove duty. yes we cooked all our meals except for 2.
Wait, what do you mean by camp duty? You camped for 2 weeks with your toddler? WTF is wrong with you? Why didn't you stay in a resort or something?

Pitching a tent/ cooking on a Whisperlite/ bathing in the ocean;
I don't know;
they're expensive and more importantly, eww.

Um, so how was camping with a toddler?

Let me preface this by saying: previous to parenthood, we rocked a sub 4-pound ultralight single wall 2-person mini-tent. I cut off the dang handle of my toothbrush and measured the weight of my gear in grams (yes really). I did gear, in the sense that I did as little gear as possible.

The secret to camping with little kids is: embrace the Gear-with-capital-G. Our tent weighs 16 lbs (because it fits a 10-lb queen-sized air mattress, because this is how you get a toddler to sleep in a tent). It has a 6-foot peak height (because you need to stand up straight if you're rocking a baby at stupid o'clock). I am simultaneously mortified to roll into camp rocking such a beast and THRILLED that the toddler has space to play when it's monsooning.

This tent and associated 10-lb queen-sized air mattress are backcountry "mom jeans."

And lemme tell you... once you go elastic waist, you don't go back.

one of us is wearing pants with elastic waist, i'm not telling who
Ok, gimme more details. HOW do you camp with a toddler?


  • Bedshare and breastfeed at night - or the potent cocktail of sleep deprivation and frustration will make you lose your f****** mind. Oh, and everyone in camp will hate your guts because your kid is wailing all night long. Get out the boobs, snuggle up, and doze until the roosters wake everyone up (that's another story).
  • White noise machine. KK sleeps with one at home, and it provided an important source of continuity and routine in camp, as well as muffled the sounds of people laughing/ dogs barking/ music playing. Ours runs on batteries, which we charged in the rental minvan as needed.
  • Accept that you are going to get marginally acceptable sleep. But hey, if you've survived parenthood this long, you're used to that.
  • Also, instant coffee. Because ain't no one got time for the fancy sh!t.
at least someone is getting rest, part 2
  • Just like an adult: a hat on the head is worth two layers on the body.
  • Also just like an adult: "cotton is rotten." Stick with fleece, nylon, polyester. (If you have a daughter, be prepared to dress her "like a boy," or as I prefer to say, "like a boss." The segmentation of "girls" and "boys" activities and associated apparel starts immediately after birth. Initiate feminist rage.)
  • Fleece snowsuit takes the place of a sleeping bag.
  • Watching a camping toddler eat goldfish crackers is like watching a great white shark swim through a school of surfers. It's total carnage and you're going to be finding pieces of goldfish cracker in your sleeping bag for many years to come. Something about the fresh air stimulates the appetite. You can never ever ever have too many packs of goldfish crackers.
  • Clip-on high chair + combo placemat/bowl = ability to feed kid without kid wandering off or eating seagull sh!t off the picnic table.
never underestimate the power of cheddar cheese
  • Don't use cloth diapers. Just don't. Disposables. Really. I don't care how much of a dirty hippy you are, just trust me on this one.
  • Repeat after me: a little dirt never killed anyone, as long as you wash your hands after diaper changes and before eating. No, you are not going to give your kid a bath every night. KK got 2 baths in the 2 weeks we were out. Wipe 'em down with a washcloth and call it a night.
lost one of these sandals around Koke'e. this is why we can't have nice things.


Wait, why didn't you write anything under "Expectations" above?

It deserves a section of its own, because the hardest thing about this trip was managing my/our expectations.

In our 2 weeks, we had 3 hiking days. THREE (3). Those 3 hiking days were all sub-6 mile days. This is, um, not a lot of hiking. Especially for flying nearly 1/3 of the way around the world. And no backcountry nights at all. Buh bye, Kalalau Trail. 

Previous to KK, Dave and I could run ourselves pretty hard. It was NBD to pack up camp, drive a couple hours, slam out a hike, set up camp, and crash - rinse and repeat the next day.

This time, we were dealing with ANOTHER PERSON who had her own feelings, needs, and desires. (IMO, this is the key distinguishing factor between a baby, who would be as obliviously and happily drooling at the North Korean DMZ border as your kitchen table, and a toddler, who is the human equivalent of the Doomsday Clock at 11:59 p.m.).

i have opinions
On this trip, we had to limit our driving to KK's afternoon nap. When we hiked, we needed to take regular breaks so she could scoot around and stick her hands in the mud and play with our noses. We couldn't have dinner at 9:30 p.m. We had to stop for goldfish crackers, diaper changes, more goldfish crackers, another layer of sunscreen, dear heavens why more goldfish crackers. 

moar goldfishhhhhhhh
 We couldn't "just push through."

Not that we didn't try. It blew up in our faces: it was HARD. And then we learned our lesson, regrouped, and continued on. 

My mantra since becoming a mother is: JUST GET OUT THERE. Counterintuitive as it seems, at this point in young KK's life, it actually does not matter if the trail is 6 miles or 0.6 miles. It doesn't matter if I climb 2 pitches or 20, if those pitches are 5.6 or 5.11. Doesn't matter if I'm camping in Hawaii or my backyard.

Children learn what they live. If I wait until KK is old enough/ strong enough/ communicative enough/ potty trained/ whatever to show her there is more to the world than our living room - it's too late. She's enough, just as she is right now. And to be honest, she doesn't know or care for the difference between a desolate beach at the end of the earth and our cozy living room - as long as her loving parents are there with her.

not poop, but would love her even if it were.
Each of her small experiences builds on the previous. If we want to hike 2,659 miles on the PCT as a family 8 years from now, then I need to go hike 3 miles in Danby State Forest with her tomorrow morning so she sees me pee in the woods and knows that is a normal thing that ladies do when they need to go.

So fine: we only hiked 3 days. Fine! We hiked 3 days in an incredibly beautiful and special corner of this One Great Dewdrop - and we did it as a family. Never thought I'd write those words.

hey mom :o)
Dang. That's deep.

Yeah, I would say motherhood is about as deep as it gets.

pele: goddess of fire
polihale: the end of the earth
home: is wherever i'm with you

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