Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hiking with a toddler: What not to do

The trail was stunning.

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There were rocky ridges and grassy meadows. A brook babbled beneath our feet and stunning vistas swept above us. For a day hike in Boulder, the Mount Sanitas Trail had everything I could want or ask for - with one small exception.

There was no on-site child care.

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When we went to the Boulder/Denver area, we had a loose plan of what to do. We wanted to go to the mountains and to Pearl Street. I wanted to make a fancy exercise class and spend a lot of time cuddling babies. But the day-to-day itinerary was open. It's a nice approach for some but a terrifying prospect for me. So, on Sunday night, Mark and I furiously researched what to do the next day with one caveat - we wanted to be outside.

So, when in Boulder do as the Boulderites do: Hike. Even (or even better) if you have to take your toddler. Of course, it's easier said than done as nothing with a child seems to go as planned.

How Not to Hike with a Toddler

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"Wing" the plans. It is imperative to pay due diligence when making plans, knowing your route, how to get there and the difficulty.Oh, and to know it's open. The original plan had us taking a route off Flagstaff Road, where we would find an easy trail and a stunning place to picnic. Problem? Flagstaff Road was closed, and we couldn't even reach the intersection as it was blocked by police cars. We ended up at the Mount Sanitas Valley Trail as our family mentioned it was an easy enough hike with a toddler. Note: They hike it with the toddler in the carrier.

Expect one day's behavior to indicate a general behavior pattern. Miles was in fine spirits. With a stick in hand and cousin by his side, he was running the trail loop around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. He laughed, he threw (minimal) rocks, he founds new sticks. And he didn't ask to be held for the half-mile around the gorgeous lake. I was so surprised with how well he did that I was sure he would do just fine on another hike. Ha. Miles spent most of our Sanitas adventure asking to be carried or being obstinate when we asked to carry him in an effort to finish in a timely manner.

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Pick an open trail where the sun is strong and there are no sticks. It is impossible to hike without a stick, especially for a toddler. If there are no suitable options, plan to spend at least 15 minutes on a teary search for an appropriate substitution. Otherwise, the toddler will get bored and the sun hot - two things that do not mix. I am not sure if there are many shaded mountain trails but this one was a bit more technical than Bear Lake - something I would have known if I had researched the first trail and subsequently researched the back up.

Don't wear a watch. I thought I was unplugging and doing the right thing by not wearing my Garmin. However, we spent the duration of the hike not knowing how far we had gone or how long it had taken us. The latter part was good as there were frequent stops to look at rocks and exchange flowers and sit down to rest.

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Pack light. I didn't anticipate our morning hike to take long and so I packed the way I would for me - just water. However, we all know that toddlers are rabid snackers and will require 453 packs of fruit snacks in the span of a half-hour. Miles was frequently complaining that he was hungry, and I had nothing to offer him but the promise of a picnic at the end.

Don't laugh. There were moments of frustration, hunger and near despair (when I was sure I was going to pee my pants). And, yes, there were times when I wished that Mark and I could have done the trail alone and explored more. However, the hike wouldn't have been filled with nearly as many memories. For me, that's what this trip was about - giving Miles experiences to remember and savor as he grows older.

Next time, though, we will be renting a carrier.


  1. I was laughing as I read this. We've so been there. Our problem is that we bring the carrier, but then Ella always wants to walk. The hour hike then takes two hours. I think our carrier is in my parent's basement. I should have thought to offer it to you!

    At least looking back you can laugh at what a cluster it was. Oh kids.

    1. I am sure that Miles would have been the same had he been in the carrier. Of course. You want to walk but don't actually walk once it's an option. Gah! Kids!

      I guess we could have borrowed our in-law's but they are on the particular side, and I didn't dare put it at risk of getting dirty.

  2. Miles is too cute with his hat and backpack! A carrier is definitely the way to go. We had one that converted from a backpack carrier to a stroller with two wheels. It was wonderful! We used it until the girls were about 4 yrs old. The hike looks beautiful!