Little Epics

The other night I asked my husband if he could think of any epic family adventures we’ve shared. He said, “I can think of a few that felt epic.” That’s the thing about recreating with little kids—in our case, 2.5-year-old Finn and 4-year-old Anders—it’s easy for something small to turn epic. Epic can be good, think skiing into a Forest Service cabin; or epic can be rough, like almost freezing your 11-month-old while cross-country skiing. Our first big adventure with a little dude was hiking into Heart Lake in Yellowstone National Park.

I had an interview with scientists studying microbes in backcountry hotpots, but couldn’t leave the baby I was nursing. So we carted five-month-old Anders along on a 15-mile day hike in grizzly country. We didn’t see any bears, but were swamped with mosquitoes so thick that toxic DEET couldn’t keep them away. Anders was mostly safe under a bug net surrounding the backpack we carried him in.

Still, he cried for the last five miles on the hike out. Walking through a forest of mosquitoes with a baby screaming inches from your head—that’s epic. The following November we were cross-country skiing near West Yellowstone. We started out under blue skies in 15-degree temperatures. On the way back the mercury fell. Anders, riding in the trailer, started crying. We didn’t know why. In retrospect, it’s obvious he was freezing, but we were skiing hard and hadn’t really noticed the cold. Those early outings taught us a lot.

My husband and I were both accomplished outdoors people, but two little boys showed us that we had a lot to learn. By the time Finn was born we had figured out a couple things. I skied with him in a front pack under a down jacket. We plan our trips around mosquito season and scale back our adventures to pre-school size. Our five-mile hikes can take four hours, but seeing them through the eyes of our boys always makes them epic. Our outdoor bucket lists grow every year. Before we know it, we’ll be running to keep up with the kids.

See the original essay at The Clymb.

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