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Maine, Mountains, and a 14-Month Old

Posted by Marielle Macher on August 1, 2019

Before our daughter was born, my husband and I were avid day hikers, easily completing at least 200 trail miles per year. We not only hiked the abundance of local trails in our home state of Pennsylvania, but also traveled throughout the Southwest and to the Rockies. While I was pregnant, I completed my last leg of the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail.

When our daughter was born, we did our best to stay on the trails, starting out with easy hikes while she was in the front carrier and then progressing to more moderate terrain when she was finally ready to go on our backs in our Deuter Kid Comfort III pack—our lifesaver! After hiking over 125 miles in our daughter’s first year, we decided it was time for our first family vacation. And so our Maine adventure to Baxter State Park and Acadia National Park with our fourteen month-old took shape!

Try Not to Count Miles

Our first lesson during our Maine trip, perhaps not surprisingly, was to tamp down our mileage expectations. We thought we could do at least five miles per day, no problem. We were, um, wrong. Getting our daughter ready and to the trailhead each morning meant a (sometimes very) late start every day, and though our daughter was happy to stay in the carrier for hours when she was small, at fourteen months she wanted to get out and explore for herself. In all, over the course of five days in Maine, we made it only 12.7 miles—a standard day hike in our pre-baby lives.

But, while we didn’t make it as far as we had hoped, we didn’t need to tamp down our expectations in terms of incredible scenery. With a little bit of planning, in those short 12.7 miles we managed to reach two wild waterfalls, a glimmering glacial alpine lake tucked into Katahdin’s crags, two Acadia summits with panoramic ocean views, and a secluded slice of Maine’s rocky coast overlooking sandbars covered with sunbathing seals.

Of course, things were different from before in many ways beyond just the distance. For one, our hikes were quite a bit less quiet—my daughter developed a new hobby of shouting “up up up up up up” as I climbed with her on my back. I’m not quite sure if she intended that as a statement, a command, or perhaps a motivational speech.

I had also never really thought of Acadia’s rocks as being slides, but my daughter certainly did. Every time she found a large, sloped rock, she climbed up on her hands and knees while shouting “up,” and then scooted back down on her butt while shouting “down.”

Letting Go of All Expectation

Somewhat unfortunately, she also developed an obsession with pebbles of all shapes and sizes. We encouraged the pebble obsession at first, but it backfired when she started wanting to play with every single rock in gravel parking lots. The gravel parking lot mania culminated in her having a massive tantrum when we tried to start a hike at the Bubbles Divide trailhead in Acadia rather than letting her spend the whole time picking up pebbles in the parking lot. Needless to say, our Bubbles hike didn’t happen.

But for all such lows, there were many more highs, and I hope that our adventures will install in our daughter a love of nature and of exploration. Just as importantly, my husband and I are able to continue our passion for hiking and nature—something that is not always a given post-kids. And with our first big trip down, we’re excited to see where our Deuter Kid Comfort Pack III will take our family next!

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Written by Marielle Macher

Marielle is a lawyer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She loves exploring her local trails, especially the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail, and has a fourteen-month old who loves riding on her back in her Deuter Kid Comfort Pack.

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