Our daughter’s baby book has a brand new page in it enthusiastically titled Baby’s First Hike!
The hike took place one morning on our recent vacation to Gros Morne National Park.
My husband and I aren’t the type to exercise for fun, but living a mere six hours away from a UNESCO Heritage site inspired us.
Photos of the alien-looking Tablelands especially captured our imaginations.
So on that morning, we were puffed up with pride.
We would be showing our daughter what the earth’s mantle actually looked like while also showing her how fun it was to get in touch with the great outdoors.
At seven months, our baby was unaware that her parents aren’t what you’d call the outdoorsy type.
But henceforth, we were determined to be gurus of the wilderness.
We gathered together everything we thought we’d need for our four-kilometer hike down the Tablelands Trail.
After an hour, the car was packed to the gills.
As we strapped the baby into the car seat, I imagined her looking back through her baby book as an adult, and bragging to her friends about how in tune to nature she felt, even as an infant.
This thought filled me with glee during the hour and a half drive to the Discovery Centre.
We picked up our GPS audio guides, and headed to the foot of the orange mountains.
Heavy clouds obscured the peaks.
When I opened the car door, a cold, wet wind cut through my body, and I realized I’d left my raincoat in the cabin.
Back to the Discovery Centre we went to purchase a raincoat.
I emerged from the car in my spiffy orange Gros Morne rain jacket, and, naturally, the rain clouds had disappeared.
We plopped our baby in the stroller and headed down the trail, happily listening to the audio guide tell us about shifting continents, carnivorous plants and poisonous rocks.
The diaper bag under the stroller was loaded with diapers, wipes, a blanket or two, a box of granola bars, and seven bottles of water.
My husband wore a backpack containing his raincoat, an extra jacket for the baby, our heavy camera, and a wrap-on baby carrier.
He also had a few more water bottles, just in case.
It was a bumpy ride for the baby but she rattled along without complaint.
When we’d hit a bit of path with rocks too large to push the stroller over, we’d lift the stroller until the path grew smoother.
The first time this occurred the baby grinned.
She was Cleopatra in her chaise being carried by her slaves.
By the fourth lift she gave wary glances to passersby, as if to say, “I apologize for my incompetent parents. They really didn’t think this stroller business through.”
My new raincoat was wet on the inside with sweat.
People returning from the end of the trail passed us by with useful things to say like, “Wow! You’re really shaking up that baby” or “That’s a whole lot of stuff you got there” or “Why don’t you just abandon that stroller?”
We decided to take that last piece of advice, and eventually, we became like Hansel and Gretel, marking the trail back to the car.
Just replace breadcrumbs with our useless baby gear.
Once out of the stroller, we put the baby in the baby carrier.
After a few minutes, she decided this would not do.
I found a comfy rock to sit on and feed her, hoping this would cheer her up, but when I put her back in the carrier she howled.
|Where's the nursing mama?|
A bend in the trail later, the carrier was also abandoned on a park bench.
Two park benches later we abandoned my husband’s backpack and five of the seven bottles of water.
Each time we left something, I whispered an apology to the scenery around me, embarrassed to be cluttering it’s natural beauty with my baby paraphernalia.
My eighteen pound baby grew heavier and heavier in my arms, but on we went, determined not to let a mere four kilometers lick us.
Just before the end of the trail our audio guide rang its bell, letting us know it was time to stop and learn something about a nearby shrub or oddly shaped rock.
“I want you to take a moment and reflect on your journey so far,” it said. “Imagine everything that has brought you to this point. Stop and breathe. Take in the majesty that surrounds you.”
As if on cue, thunder rumbled, and the rain that had threatened us at the beginning of the trail pattered to the ground.
We made it to the end of the trail, and slumped in a sopping wet, and tired heap on the wooden platform, surrounded by the waterfalls, and the red cloud-filled canyon stretching into the distance.
We took our requisite first family hike pictures, and then turned back to retrieve all our junk and get back to the car.
From start to finish, our four kilometer hiking adventure had taken us over four hours.
Feeling less optimistic about our abilities to become wilderness gurus, I contemplated future hiking endeavors with the baby.
Perhaps we’ll attempt to set an example of outdoor appreciation when she is actually old enough to appreciate it.
Like when she can walk on her own.
And carry her own bottle of water.
Or her seven bottles of water.
Or maybe instead of fostering a love of the outdoors, we’ll work on fostering the ability to pack lightly.