Our five-year PCT trailaversary quietly passed us by last month with no more fanfare than my husband mentioning it in passing in the middle of the night after he got the baby back to sleep, otherwise I would have forgotten. (Catching longtime readers up to speed – we had a baby and moved from the West Coast back to Maine. Emily is now 20 months old.)
Just as I was clumsily gaining my hiking legs around Idyllwild, California around this time five years ago, this weekend Emily, not inelegantly, gained hers and summited her first mountain — Great Pond Mountain, elevation 1,029 feet.
And amidst all the chaos, stress and uncertainty of our daily pandemic life, it somehow seems the perfect time to resurrect this blog.
We are now going wherever it leads at toddler speed. This means noticing varieties of lichen on rocks, bugs crawling through grass and moss, birds singing, lots of collecting pine cones (Emily handing them to me, instructing “put in pocket”), scaling boulders with the help of Mommy’s hands, stumbling, and getting back up again.
Although we’ve been spending several weekends in the woods or on the coast, this felt like our first real hike since moving back to Maine from Washington State this past December.
Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland offered us the quintessential Maine coastal forest trail, remote enough to safely social distance, south enough to be free of snow this time of year, and far enough from home to afford Emily a good car-nap each way.
The trail was lined with red spruce and giant granite covered in mint green lichen and deep green moss, the smell of pine needles kicked up from our feet — the landscape that had been calling us home from the dry high desert and rolling hills of Walla Walla, where we’d spent our last four years since getting off the trail. It’s early spring, so only little buds on some trees and mucky spots beside springtime streams that I lift Emily over. A 2.9-mile round trip out-and-back path with a lovely summit loop at the top that Emily walked completely (almost 0.5 miles), the rest of the time she rode in her hiking backpack on Daddy’s back.
My heart was so full seeing her as ignited by hiking as we are — excitedly searching for the next blue blaze, blazing down the trail herself. While walking, she chattered away “Mommy hiking. Daddy hiking. Emily hiking.”
We had a typical trail lunch (or as Emily calls it, a “picnic table,” whether or not we’re at a table) of salami, cheese, crackers and fruit sitting on a flat rock, sheltered by pines and spruce with a view of Maine’s spring forest — shades of brown dotted with pale blue lakes and, farther out, the ocean and coastal mountains, a darker shade of the gray-blue matching the overcast sky.
She’s gotten used to our quarantine hikes — the big event of her little life at this point. This morning after I explained what we were doing for the day she was eager to help us pack, naming the things she would need, “water bottle, cheddar bunnies, books” — for the car ride. She got Mommy’s hiking shoes out of the closet and almost had a tantrum when Daddy suggested they go play while I showered. She didn’t want to play, she wanted to help get ready for our adventure.
As new parents we are far from ones to be giving advice, but here are some things that worked for us to keep her interested for a full hike:
- Searching for the next blue blaze (first pointing them out ourselves our voices full of exagerated excitement, then letting her lead the way to the next one)
- Taking it slow, letting her scale a boulder or meander off-trail when she needs to explore
- Interspersing having her walk on her own with carrying in a trail pack (we have an older version of this one) or in our arms
- Me running ahead while Daddy shouts “Let’s catch Mommy,” then hiding behind trees and popping out to her squeals of delight
- Lots of singing
Here’s a great resource for those interested in getting out for a hike with littles: Hike It Baby.
A note on hiking safely during the COVID pandemic: We take the time to find out-of-the-way lesser-known public lands and trails. We look at the number of cars in the parking lot and have one or two nearby backup plans if it looks too crowded. We practice physical distancing on trail.
Until next time, happy trails,
Comet, Not a Bear, & (introducing) Alarm Clock