Before welcoming children into our family we were a couple who loved and lived for everything outdoors. We lived in downtown Seattle while spending our weekends exploring the Cascade mountains. When we made the decision to have a baby back in 2013 and welcomed our son Jack in 2014 too many people were portraying life with kids as difficult, exhausting, and life-ending. We were warned that our passion for the outdoors would soon become a thing of the past because “You can’t bring a baby along on adventures in the woods.” As we were preparing for our son’s arrival we talked openly and honestly about understanding that, yes, our lives would be changing. Yes, life would be harder and more complicated. Yes, we wouldn’t be able to do all the things we had done in the past before our baby came into this world. However, that certainly wasn’t going to stop us from taking him along on as many adventures as possible. We adapted to having him along, we evolved into parents and began to see how different, and yet, magical an adventure with a baby along could be.
For so many people these comments of doom and gloom come from a place of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of a trip going poorly, fear of not having the energy, fear of injury or illness. Too often as parents, we give into our own exhaustion. Life with small children is HARD! We are constantly tired, always feeling like we’re treading water and barely keeping our heads above the icy depths below. I’m a stay at home mom struggling with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety with an emotional 2.5 year old and a loud and opinionated 6 month old. I am beyond tired. On the weekends all I really want to do is stay in bed, binge watch Netflix, eat piles of chocolate, and just have life be easy for one day. Often times Bobby has to push me out the door. More often than not I have to be bribed with ice cream or a burger at the end to convince me to leave the comfort of home. But I am always glad that we did it. If I’ve had a bad day or week, a couple of hours in the quiet of the woods always makes me feel better.
We learned early on that parenting is difficult no matter where we are. Everyday life becomes muddled with difficult choices. Choices that can literally alter the course of your child’s life. If we aren’t in a positive, healthy space as parents how then can we be confident in the decision making process where our children are concerned. Studies have shown the positive impact participating in outdoor recreation has on adults and children alike. It improves self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. As parents we are constantly second guessing ourselves. Did we chose the right preschool? Does he eat enough veggies? Do we encourage enough independent play? Do we read enough? Are we exposing her to different cultures appropriately? I still remember those first terrifying and uncertain weeks after the birth of Jack. We had no clue what we were doing. But, we packed him (and a ridiculous amount of gear) in our car and headed for the mountains. Regardless of our location we knew parenting would be hard. In the quiet and calm of the woods life slows down, conversation flows, and quality time as a family is the focus. Our fears, worries, and uncertainties seem to fade into the background as we hike, bike, or canoe. Our confidence in ourselves and the choices we are making as parents grows with each passing mile. Mother Nature can be one of our biggest educators. Within her embrace we have come to realize how small we are, just single beings involved in something so much bigger than ourselves. In nature you see how interconnected everything is. How each living organism plays its role and has a meaningful purpose. We too have a role to play and an important purpose in this world and we have sought the refuge and quiet of the woods to find, deep within ourselves our own purposes. It is within the woods that Bobby and I find so many answers through our conversations, through the quiet periods of personal reflection, through watching, really watching, our children as they explore, interact, and grow as they hike along with us
It has become somewhat of a life mission for Bobby and I to break down the stereotypes around outdoor recreation with children. We speak to many parents encouraging them to explore, sharing our experiences, passing on our ideas and opinions. It’s time for all parents to get outside with their children. Don’t let your fear, your exhaustion, your own uncertainty stop you from experiencing life with your children.
This August we are setting off on our biggest adventure ever. We will be spending 3-4 weeks biking, canoeing, camping, and backpacking from the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids, MN to Lake Superior near Grand Portage. We’re calling our route The Arrowhead Traverse as it crosses the Minnesota arrowhead.
First section: Biking Our trip begins with us biking around 65 miles on the Mesabi Trail through the Iron Range. The trail will one day take cyclists from Grand Rapids all the way to Ely but it has yet to be completed. So, we will be doing the completed portions as we don’t want to risk road biking with the kids.
Second section: Canoeing Next we will head to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) putting in at Moose Lake and finishing at Saganaga Lake. We will most likely utilize some tows on the larger open water to avoid getting caught in wind with two small children in the boat.
Third section: Backpacking The final leg of our trip will be a hike along the 65 mile Border Route Trail following the US/Canada border. This trail is known for its beautiful cliffs and overlooks that provide sweeping views into the Boundary Waters and Quetico.
As we embark on this trek it is our hope to make a documentary film about our journey. We are by, no means, experts on any of this and want to portray what really happens on an extended trek with kids along. We sincerely hope that you will follow along as we stumble our way through what is sure to be an incredibly memorable trip.