So WHY are we Hiking?

Ok, lemme take another crack at answering the question. Why specifically is our family backpacking the entire PCT, or at least trying to, in 2023?

Are you really trying to tell me a day at the office is better than a day here with this crew?

What else would we do? Work?!?!?

Well, we are the weird ones who are actually quite passionate about our jobs. Our jobs are helping people in Chad, Africa to have better health than they would otherwise have if we weren’t around. Super frustrating sometimes in a foreign culture, but also nothing more rewarding. 

This little dude became one of our favorite patients this year. How could he not?

Despite that, we are infinitely more passionate about having a healthy family. Physically, sure. But more so, we want closeness among us. We only have these few years to screw up our kids as thoroughly as possible, so might as well start the process on the trail, amiright?

After a trial month on the Appalachian Trail in 2020, the kids claimed to still be having fun… so we just kept on walking. Until we had eventually finished the whole darn thing! Having a baby kinda slowed down most further backpacking in 2021, but in 2022 the family was unanimously in favor of setting out on the Continental Divide Trail. It required a couple shortcuts, but eventually we hiked that entire trail too, connecting our footsteps from Mexico to Canada in a single year! And remarkably, everybody was still smiling by bedtime each night! (Maybe not every hour, but every day).

That bittersweet moment you finish a long trail. My dad and stepmom had these shirt made for us on the final day getting to Springer Mountain and finishing the AT in 2020.

Transitioning Family

Now after 12 years in Chad, our family is facing a transition. We always said we would return to America once Blaze started sixth grade. Well, he’s now finishing eighth grade. And we are simply tired of being on-call 24/7 at the hospital. Our employer has generously allowed us to take several unpaid leaves of absence, but it’s simply not our cup of tea anymore. We are in this strange position of loving what we do, being passionate about it… and really not wanting to do it anymore. Wanting somebody else to do it. So we’re leaving. 

Despite our complaining, we will miss moments like these, spending the night with a nomadic tribe who decided to put down some roots, then waking up to a gorgeous morning.

We’ve been offering to leave for ages. ‘Anytime you find our replacement, we’re ready to go.’ We finally felt in April of 2020 that we had found our replacement. We were hiking the Appalachian Trail and we found another doc to come and replace us, ready in February 2022. So we informed our employer we would be leaving then. But that doc ended up not coming. We stuck to our guns and left in February 2022, without a plan. 

Suburbia Aversion

We considered buying an SUV, moving into the suburbs with the white picket fence, driving kids to soccer practice, and in general chasing the elusive but promising American dream. But it just never quite seemed to fit us. Maybe, eventually. But not yet. We all have that uneasy feeling that once we get a job and move some place, that’s the end. No more adventure. 

As we started the CDT last year, we agreed to a final six months back in Chad, following the CDT, in order to get the hospital through the busy dry season. Well, now that’s coming to an end and we are making good on our plans to return to America. 

We still haven’t begun looking for a job. We still haven’t bought a house. (Should probably get the job first.) Still haven’t decided where we will live. Or where the children will attend school. Will we continue homeschooling? Or.. really much of anything. 

Why not the PCT as a Family?

So it just feels right to continue our irresponsible parenting and go backpacking the PCT as a family in 2023. As Angel Wings said, ‘We already hiked the other two. We HAVE to hike the PCT now!’ And the other kids go along. I mean, it’s better than working, right?

Angel Wings can always be counted on for her enthusiasm. It’s no surprise she was the first to pounce on the idea of a PCT thru this year.

As our oldest is now 14 years old, and soon to figure out his parents aren’t cool and he doesn’t want to hang out with us, we really are clinging to this time together. This last year or two when the growing boy, now the size of his mother, will still come and kiss me on the cheek and tell me he loves me every night before he heads to bed. Before I want it to happen, he will stop asking me if I have time to go outside and spend time with him. That hurts to think about. Why not spend six more months walking together every day? And I could say the same for each of my children. 

Gotta make more memories with this dude right here before he realizes I’m not cool.

Will we soon become an American stereotype? Am I the type to get sucked into work? Will my kids become overly-engaged in extra-curriculars? Will their friends supplant their parents? Someday soon will we sit around a table, everybody staring quietly at their screens? Will we eat in shifts, every man for himself? Will we grow apart?

I don’t know. But I know today, my kids want to spend time with me. Sure, we could spend time on a yacht, or in an RV, or… I dunno. But our budget is more along the lines of our Zpacks tents 😉

So we can fret about them missing school, missing friends, missing normal social constructs for 2023 American kids. 

Better Off Backpacking

But what if I told you our family is able to become quite physically healthy while spending our days waking up to beautiful sunrises from the tops of mountains and riverbanks, rousing each other for a breakfast together, spending immense quality time as a family, without distractions, walking and talking and sharing thoughts and playing games all day long, eating our meals sitting on the ground in a circle, witnessing nature’s grandeur at its unashamed best, teaching our children responsibilities, teamwork, patience, all the while seeing our children thrive academically, then falling asleep where we can easily call out, ‘Good night. I love you,’ freely back and forth.

Add to that the fact our children now know they can do hard things, no matter what life throws at them, that very few have had the opportunity and the courage to launch themselves into, with the understanding of what it takes… I’d say we’ve been pretty fortunate and our kids are no worse the wear for it.

I would say doing this with your 10-year-old son is better than sitting around a table staring at your phone.

And so this family will be backpacking the PCT in 2023!

Can you think of more advantages/disadvantages to raising kids on the trail? Mention it in the comments below!

And to be introduced to our hikers, start with the youngest, Dead Weight, here:

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Comments 8

  • Noelle : Mar 29th

    I am SO looking forward to following your hike this year!

    (And in my unsolicited opinion, keep homeschooling your kids. It’s probably one of the best things you could do for them, besides thru-hiking, of course!)

    • The Family : Mar 31st

      We hope you’re right! 😉

  • Donna Brooksk : Mar 29th

    Love reading your posts, even got my sister hooked on them. Keep on hiking! What an amazing family and life you are living.
    Sure wish I had met you on your CDT hike. My husband of 50 years and I have a home in Platoro, Co and Pagosa Springs, CO and I’m pretty sure you walked thru both.

    • The Family : Mar 31st

      We took the green line right through Platoro!!! May 18, I think we may have been the first ones, or at least near the first ones, to go through there. Nothing was open that early. That day was my first marathon, 26.2+ miles. We had the minivan then and just cowboy camped beside the river. Also popped a tire on your road! 😉

      • Donna Brooks : May 17th

        We were there at our cabin when you came through. Sorry we missed meeting all of the family. That road is famous for tire and other car problems! Are you already on the PCT? Haven’t seen any posts. Might need snow shoes!

  • Maureen : Mar 29th

    What a great way to transition from your time in Chad. I cannot wait to meet you on the trail this summer! You all are an inspiration! And, that 14 year old – I think he’ll stick around for awhile since you’ve laid the family groundwork. Try keeping him off the trail. Don’t allow him to hike with you anymore after the PCT. Take his backpack away. You’ll see true rebellion! Just to prove himself he’ll hike with you everywhere. I think you’re stuck with him! Praying as you start your journey soon!

    • The Family : Mar 31st

      I love it! Hope you’re right! 🙂

  • Shamara Rochelle Simpson : Apr 14th

    Absolutely ? love your path!!!! I feel you are amazing parents. No one has to live in the box, though most choose too. Looking forward to your journey ?. Sending love and blessings ?!!!


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