Although Chris and I spend a lot of time walking around town with the minions strapped to our chests*, a couple of hours running errands or wandering city streets is very different than hiking a nature trail. We learned this the hard way, forgetting that the last time we hiked with the children was in October when they weighed about a third of what they do now.
Chris on a hike in the Spring of 2009
Last week I spent some time researching a hike that would be a good length that was fairly close to the city. Pre-baby times we would generally hike10-14 KMs at a stretch with some rugged terrain. I can be overly ambitious in my hiking exploits. There were some incidents on hiking and canoe trails where Chris has not appreciated my need to complete 20-25km in an afternoon.** Also, once you acknowledge that trails can be poorly marked, a short trail can suddenly get a lot longer. I figured I'd scale it back a little committing us to an 8.6km hike at Albion Hills just North West of the City. I used the conservation area website to get ratings on trails, unaware that said trails would be poorly marked and primarily for mountain bike riding.
My first clue to the fact that these were in fact mountain biking trails should have been when my brother called me to try to locate us at the trail head and asked, "Does your trail map have a picture of a giant dork riding a bike on the front of it?"
In the first 10 minutes of our hike I decided, with Jack strapped to me, to follow an incorrect trail marker into the centre of a bog where the only thing growing was scratchy raspberry canes while the rest of our crew watched in horror, mocked me and walked around the swampy lagoon while I hiked on with two full "soakers". Two hours later, with only a 15 minute break and no great space to relax for a few minutes we felt like we had taken on too much. My only solace was when my brother tried to spin and catch his hat and accidentally punched himself in the crotch.
The trail was disappointing and confusing, poorly maintained with lots of rocks and tree roots.*** Being the clumsy oaf that I am I managed to go trip on a tree root, thankfully the only thing that was hurt was my ankle, my hands and my pride. I managed to complete an instinctual-intense plank (essentially landing in a push-up position) on my way to the ground protecting Jack from injury. It was my scream of horror that made Jack cry, not my fall and thankfully he calmed down almost instantly (after I checked every inch of his body to make sure he was okay).
By this point Molly had decided that she had enough of the trail and that she wanted to go home. We assessed the map and found that 2 hours of hiking had brought us only 60% of the way. We decided to cut back as quickly as we could, Molly screaming and me swearing about my ankle, and were turned around only 1 more time by the poorly marked trails. I was disappointed in the views and ourselves for failing at a hike that we could have completed in no time pre-babies.
When we got home I researched the hike on non-conservation websites and found that others had also found the trails confusing and that the trail was much longer than indicated because of how it was maintained and marked. Mountain bikers posted comments about annoying hikers taking up the trails. I feel a little bit better and we're going to leave Albion Hills to the dorks on bikes from now on.
*I know a lot of people have heard all sorts of crazy things about Attachment Parenting since the Time Magazine Article, however if you look past the extremism and media hoopla some of the ideas, like baby wearing aren't so crazy. I have to admit I wear Jack mostly for convenience, however I like the closeness and contact I get from baby wearing. And if anyone knows where I can get a baby sling that will support Jack once he gets over 25lbs I would be very appreciative! http://attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php
**Which was around the time he enforced a hiking limit of 10-14KM distance total.
***The map became even more difficult to read after Molly tried to eat it.