Courtesy of Sam Steinbrugge
Jennifer Halley, with baby Oliver on her back, and Sam, Oliver’s dad, smile at the camera during their hike at Lower North Santiam Falls.
Over the weekend, I took advantage of the smoke-free air and went on a hike with my friends Sam and Claudia, and Sam’s 8-month-old twins, Oliver and Avery.
We hiked about 7 of the 10-mile trail of the Little North Santiam trail, which is near the Opal Creek/Three Pools area outside of Lyons.
It’s a beautiful area, full of Douglas-fir trees, turquoise-colored pools, and a handful of rustic log footbridges. At one point, we had to cross two creeks via narrow, slightly sketchy logs.
The hike up to the viewpoint was steep, containing quite a few switchbacks and lots of roots to stumble over (or maybe that was just me). The view point, which is about halfway up the trail, overlooks Henline Mountain and a sea of Douglas-firs. The view was incredible, stretching for miles, and — minus the bees — it was a nice place to sit and relax and catch your breath a little.
You might be reading this and thinking, oh, this doesn’t sound too bad.
Well, strap an 8-month-old to your back and it changes the equation.
For those who know me, I’m not really a “kid person.” They’re cute and all, but just not for me. I don’t usually go out of my way to interact with them.
So when I asked Sam if he wanted to go on a hike, he said, “sure,” and then, “hope you’re OK with hiking with the kids.”
When he said that I immediately got this picture in my head of babies in carriers shrieking their heads off while we trudged up the trail.
“That’s totally fine; I’ve never hiked with babies before,” I said.
To give you some background information here, I’m the type of hiker who doesn’t go on a hike to meander and turn back when tired. No. If I’m hiking, I’m getting to the end of that hike, whether it’s a 3-mile hike or 20. Call it determination or Type-A, whichever you would like.
Driving to Sam’s house that Sunday morning, I realized I needed to adjust my expectations for this hike if I wanted to have a good time with everyone. There was a very good chance we wouldn’t hike the whole thing; heck, there was a very good chance we would get an hour in and have to turn back because of the babies.
Sam is an awesome dad, though, and this hike ended up going more smoothly than I could have imagined.
He timed our departure out with the timing of the babies’ naps so that when we arrived at the trailhead, they were just waking up.
He made sure to feed them before they got too hungry, and change them before they got too uncomfortable. When we stopped at the viewpoint, he got the kids out of the carrier and let them crawl around on a blanket for a while to give them a chance to explore their surroundings.
Because of these factors, our hike was incredibly enjoyable. Hiking with an 8-month-old is no joke, though. My legs were sore for three days afterward. I don’t think I’ve sweat so much in my life. And hiking down steep terrain with a baby on your back – it’s a little terrifying. Especially if you’re clumsy.
On the way up, I had Avery on my back and Sam carried Oliver, and on the way down, my back got a break and Claudia carried Avery.
Toward the end of the hike, the kids started to get fussy — you would too if you were strapped in a carrier for 7 miles — but I didn’t mind like I thought I would. It had been a fun day.
Hiking with babies gave me a new way to look at things: I, and I’m sure everyone else can relate, am notorious for rushing through things without really taking the time to take in my surroundings. Even on hikes. We get so focused on the goal or whatever it is we’re working toward that we forget to pause and look and notice things. For these babies, at 8 months old, they’re experiencing the world for the first time. And it’s a really cool thing, to watch them pick up rocks or grab handfuls of grass with their chunky hands or when they’re staring at me, as if studying me intently.
So if I took anything out of this hike, it was to make sure and enjoy my surroundings every once and a while. Look at things as if I’m seeing them for the first time. Maybe I’ll appreciate them more.