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Thanksgiving in the Backcountry
Time was when my husband (then boyfriend) and I used to backpack 17 miles in a day -- uphill both ways -- fueled by a few dried apple rings and some creek water with a tab of iodine thrown in for good measure. And the next day we'd get up at sunrise and do it again.

I know it doesn't actually sound fun, but it was.

We'd go for days without seeing anyone but each other.
We'd meet rattlesnakes and red-tail hawks and foxes, up close and personal.
We'd daydream.

And when we had children and had to toss in the teeny tent for a bigger one, we grieved. Car camping just wasn't the same, though dang if we didn't try. We trucked our kids all over god's green acre with cans of beans and a camp stove, all for the pleasures of smelling campfire smoke in their hair and showing them the stars that just plain don't show up at our house. It's been worth it, but still...

This past summer, a decade into parenting, we fitted the girls with their own small packs and made our maiden family backpacking voyage into the Tetons, in Wyoming. It went so well that we just did it again, over Thanksgiving (this time in Big Bend National Park), and lordamercy was it fine.

We hiked and climbed and stomped for three days -- covering about the distance we might've used to in one.

We carried all our own water -- needing to be certain that we had enough for the kids to drink.

And we ate a heck of a lot more than dried apple rings. There was corn chowder and oatmeal and trail mix galore. I even toted in an itsy bitsy pumpkin pie for Thursday night.

But the integral reasons for getting out there were still fully realized.
Intimate togetherness.
Wildness and staggering beauty.
Space to dream. (Um, in a chatty sort of way.)

As my husband said on our last day (a day in which we'd already played some hilarious rounds of 20 Questions, discussed which other National Parks we'd like to visit, made up mysteries, and played a newly-invented acronym game), "They do the same random free associating we do when we walk... they just do it aloud."

And now we're home. It's cold and rainy today -- not the weather for a good walk. The girls are back in school, I have a lunch date and the laundry is the most astounding sight around here.

And yet.
We saw a black bear this weekend.
And oaks that had turned gold.
And the summit of Mt. Emory.
We saw each other and it was really, truly fine.

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What a wonderful way to give thanks---for nature and for each other. Fine, indeed.

Yes, Sara. It totally turned out that way....

This sounds sooooo fun and perfect.

I'd been really nervous about it being too cold to be fun, but we bundled all the way up and it worked!

Tanita Says :)

What a gift you're able to give your kids.
My Dad just... walked away from us. We could never keep up. He never gave up the hiking, I think my mother just gave up trying. That intimate connection wasn't the point of walking, to him; I think he did lots of fifty mile jogs in the military or something and those aren't exactly bonding journeys. Anyway, this is really cool, and gives me a glimmer of what people love so much about hiking and being in the woods and walking long ways is all about. I'd love to do it someday, at my own pace, on my own, and feel that I had so succeeded when it was all said and done.


That is so interesting, Tanita. One of the things Kirk and I have talked about is tweaking our expectations so that we don't take our kids on a death march. Y'know? Scaling the whole deal to them. Which (I guess I'm like your dad in this way) is not always easy. But once we do slow down and knock back the mileage, the drive follows and we all seem satisfied...

Sigh -- what a beautiful experience. You continue to inspire and amaze and lead by example. Thank you!

It was beautiful but honestly, I think the kids are the leaders. I really do. They set the tone for doing this in a whole new way...

I loved reading about your backpacking experience with your kids. What a lovely way to be so present with each other on a holiday of thanksgiving.

It was! I wondered if it would feel "holiday" enough and it turns out I'm fairly flexible in that regard...

That sounds wonderful. Simply joyous.


Yeah, Jules. It was a "kick"...

sooo wonderful. I can almost feel it myself...

Here's some cocoa to go with that thought!

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Oh, gosh. Thanks, Susan. The gift goes both ways, I assure you...

I love This!

it gives me hope that we too will get back to those backcountry hikes one day

Yes! Patience pays...

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