Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Baby In Your Pack Is Worth How Much?

One of our family traditions over Thanksgiving is to have a weenie roast down by the Buffalo River. From the cabin, it is about five miles of rugged hiking down a mountain some 1500 feet in elevation to the confluence of the Buffalo with Sneed's Creek. From there, we typically hike a ways up Sneed's to get off the beaten path. This year, we had somebody new to join in on the fun… Little Abbey.

One of the baby shower gifts given to us from my parents was a specialized backpack for carrying infants and toddlers. Little Abbey had only been on short walks around town in her stroller on pavement and I had never attempted to carry a baby down or up a mountain so it was a new experience for both of us. We carefully slid Little Abbey into her seat and I got the backpack onto my shoulders and cinched the various belts. Once adjusted, Little Abbey's head sat about six inches above my head making her over six and a half feet in the air and giving her a panoramic view. She seemed to like it.

The hike down to the river went smoothly and easily as most downhill hikes tend to go. Little Abbey got a little cranky the last couple hundred feet but that was because she was hungry. A small stick fire was started and soon weenies were being roasted while Isabelle ate right from the 'tap' with Mrs. Abbey. Although the day was mostly overcast, the temperatures were near 70 degrees in the valley and perfect for a weenie roast.

After the weenies were roasted, the potato chips munched and the sodas drank, we loaded up and began the five mile slog uphill to the cabin. We hadn't gone far when Little Abbey started complaining, letting us know that she was tired of sitting in her backpack. We tried making her more comfortable and then just kept going hoping she would fall asleep but our efforts didn't pay off. Little Abbey couldn't sleep in a bouncing, bobbing backpack and I couldn't blame her. So we went to plan B, which Mrs. Abbey had thankfully planned for. She strapped on another contraption like a kangaroo pouch that rests on her stomach and relies only on shoulder straps. Anyone who has carried much weight backpacking knows that it is much more desirable to distribute the load on the hips and not the shoulder but with three and a half miles left to go and a baby that obviously wasn't going to be happy in my pack, we didn't have much choice. So my wife took Little Abbey, who instantly fell asleep in the kangaroo pouch, I shouldered my wife's pack on top of my pack and off we went.

When Little Abbey woke up, we decided to switch rides again to give my wife's shoulders a rest. But less than a mile later, we ended up switching back. Little Abbey didn't want anything more of that pack. My wife and I slowly walked back up the mountain taking our time for breathers and trying to keep Little Abbey entertained because now she was starting to complain about her kangaroo pouch too. So much so, that the last couple hundred yards, Grandma ended up carrying Little Abbey in her arms.

All in all, everyone made it back safe and sound and more than worked off the hotdog calories eaten down by the river. We were perhaps a little aggressive in trying a ten-mile hike right off the bat with Little Abbey but we learned. I think had she been a couple months older, she would have been able to sleep and thus enjoy that pack more than she did. Plus we learned a lesson. If we are going to tote Little Abbey in the pack next year at 18 months of age or the year after at 30 months, I'm going to have to get in better shape.

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