Big Trail, Big Family!

Hiya! Welcome to our madness!

We’re the Netteburg Family, and we’re a little… different. Odd. Strange. Weird. But we love backpacking! Maybe we’re not so different after all. At least not in this community. 

What makes us unique? Well, we like to go backpacking as a family. A big family. Indeed, there are actually seven of us at last count. (And final count. It might be a bit extreme, but we’ve opted for hysterectomy as our chosen method of birth control. Well, that and a 25cm fibroid, but whatevs.)

A Little (Lot of) Backstory…

Queen Bee and I met in medical school in southern California, just a short drive from Big Bear and the PCT actually! Queen Bee was going by Danae back then, and Danae was a year ahead of me in medical school. Because she’s soooooo much older than young me (hey, six months is six months), Danae would saunter outside between classes and perform gymnastics on the lawn. Her supposed motivation was that she enjoyed gymnastics and had been doing it since childhood, but we all know that deep down, she was really just trying to catch my eye. 

And catch my eye she did! In fact, the first time I ever noticed her was actually at a student retreat where she was up front talking about a service trip she had taken to Ethiopia the summer before. (I know it’s cliché, but I legitimately turned to my buddy and said, ‘I’m gonna marry that girl.’)

She Had Other Plans, Apparently

She rejects my advances:

  1. Plans to see a movie together. Her roommate is organizing a social function for the school and is selling movie tickets. I tell her to sell me two so I can ask Danae. Her roommate tells me to hold off, because Danae bought to tickets and will ask me! Yay! Heart’s all atwitter. Saturday night, phone doesn’t ring.
  2. I ask her roommate if she and her boyfriend could double date with us to a daytime minor league baseball game, about the least-threatening date I could come up with. She says this is totally up Danae’s alley. Yay! Heart’s atwitter. Next day says, never mind. Don’t ask her.
  3. Forget the roommate, I’m asking Danae myself. The  woman rejected an outing golfing. How skittish is she?!
  4. She finally accepted an overnight camping trip with friends! But then called me the morning we’re leaving to tell me she isn’t coming. She found some more attractive friends going rock climbing for the weekend. I couldn’t compete with rock climbers. 

I was beginning to get the impression she didn’t want to spend time with me. Impossible! I knew that couldn’t be right, because… well, obviously. I mean, have you met me!?

She had told her roommates she wanted a man who would live in a hut in Africa, and they told her I was her guy. She wasn’t buying it. I had lived in Korea for six months after college, and then another six in Africa, and I came to medical school with the intention of returning to Africa after training. She, similarly, had spent a year in Zambia during college and had the same plans.

I’m thinking, this is perfect! Danae’s hot. She’s compassionate. She’s hot. Plus, she’s hot! I mean, what else is there??? Complete package, amiright?

Breaking Her Down…

Finally, after she’s dumped me a dozen times without ever actually dating me, she agrees to a different camping trip with her friends, and I can come as the outsider. Game on!

Our first overnight backpacking trip! To the highest elevation in Joshua Tree. (Danae has just worked all night in the hospital.)

So our relationship started in the mountainous woods of Central California. It’s now time to hike back there and show the kids where it all started! And a lesson for my sons… offer to switch your warmer sleeping bag for the girl’s wimpy bag… plus give her a warm fleece beanie… and she’s yours forever. That’s science!

Anywho, she finally gave up and settled for me, we got hitched, and we took her background from Oklahoma and Tennessee, and my childhood from Minnesota, Michigan and Maryland, and we moved to Massachusetts for our medical residency specialty training. Danae has become an obstetrician/gynecologist and I am an emergency physician. Feel free to ask us any medical questions you like on trail, but just remember, we weren’t top in our class. (Seriously, we don’t mind any time worried folks want to ask our medical opinion. Just reach out. It’s not a bother.)

No going back now! You said, ‘I do!’

To Africa and Beyond! (Actually just Africa)

We started our reproductive habits halfway through our training and arrived in Chad, Africa with our firstborn December 2010, where we have been doing our best to be loving and humanitarian missionary physicians ever since, failing more often than not, but… we try. Most days. At least a little. 

In the intervening years, we kept working and kept making babies until we had four of the little buggers. After seven years in Chad, we started to get a little antsy and began looking for things we could do to prevent burnout. Being on-call for the hospital 24/7, living on the hospital property, in a place which is routinely at the bottom of most health indicators… it takes its toll.

Danae and I with our pet camel, Val, short for Valentine’s. She was a Valentine’s Day present to Danae, who earned a camel by skinny dipping on a cold January day in Virginia.

So we decided to do some silly things like thru-hiking. And it’s become a bit of who we are as a family. A bit of an identity.

The Family Team Members

We are:

1. Queen Bee (age unknown, but obviously the oldest, possibly predates the Gregorian calendar)

2. Spreadsheet (43)

3. Blaze (14)

4. Boomerang (11)

5. Angel Wings (9)

6. The Beast (7)

7. Dead Weight (1)

The Beginning of a Bad Idea

The obligatory McAfee’s Knob picture on the Appalachian Trail at sunrise. Was a 4am start for this!

We started on the Appalachian Trail with four children in 2020. And as of today, The Beast is still the only thru-hiker to complete the entire trail at age four. However because it was THE covid year, and we weren’t prepared to break any laws with four children (no child protective services please, believe me, as an ER doctor, I can tell you they are already overworked with plenty of other cases), it required some great creativity to finish. We went into Northern New England with two cars packed with food to avoid needing to shop for two weeks of quarantine and to be able to fully self-sustain and isolate. We had to skip all around. Things were logistically challenging. But the kids loved it and we grew as a family.

Literally. We grew as a family. We finished the trail with a fetus we didn’t start with. Surprise!!!

An Even Worse Idea

Taking 2021 off to, you know, have the AT baby, we were back on trail in 2022, hiking a continuous footpath border-to-border, but along the Continental Divide Trail, not the PCT. We became the largest family to thru-hike the CDT, the first to carry a baby thru the CDT, and our six-year-old became the youngest to go the whole way (admittedly, we took alternates and didn’t ‘redline’ the entire way). As it turns out, we enjoyed ourselves, and each other, so the kids figured we might as well finish off the Triple Crown!

Dead Weight hits the CDT terminus on the Canadian border, becoming the first baby carried the entire way.

Now we have the terribly awful and wonderful idea of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Just like a lot of you. We’re a bit the type-two-fun masochists you all are. 

If we succeed, we will become the largest family to thru-hike the PCT, we will be the first to carry a baby on TWO of America’s Triple Crown trails, and The Beast will become the youngest Triple Crowner. 

In future posts, we will introduce each thru-hiker and maybe share some of our motivations, plans, preparations… and gear! I LOVE gear!!! (I really just hike as an excuse to buy gear.)

Until we see you on the trail…

The Family

PS Feel free to subscribe below if you think you’d like to follow a slightly-off-kilter family as they walk a really long trail with too many kids 😉

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Comments 9

  • Judith Pearson : Feb 17th

    Look forward to receiving your posts. A little about me. I’m a 100% disabled veteran from the Vietnam Era. Yeah, that makes me old but that’s OK. I was an OR tech in the service. Loved it. I’ve followed lots of AT hikers. Now I want to experience the PCT.

  • carol-redhair : Feb 17th

    A 1939 baby born at what was then Loma Linda Sanitarium and Hospital, today a bit past any hiking but vicariously following adventurers on-line and in print. Eagerly anticipating hearing about your family’s adventures!

  • Joanne Gigliotti : Feb 17th

    Looking forward to following your amazingly cool and adventurous family! What an awesome gift of experiences and memories to give your children 🙂 Happy Trails!

  • Julie Varga : Feb 17th

    I follow you guys simply because you are the best form of serial entertainment around. And hugely inspiring. Looking forward to your trip!

  • Ellen R : Feb 17th

    I am gobsmacked! As a mother of 4 and grandmother to..?., sorry I’ve lost count, I got exhausted reading your first post. Apparently you know what you are doing as you have proved yourselves to be hiking marathoners. Looking forward to following your adventure.

  • Tammy : Feb 17th

    I am so excited for your family!! I followed your travels on the CDT via Queen Bee’s insta and can’t wait for this blog!! Safe travels

  • Maureen : Feb 19th

    Excited to follow you this year! If you need anything when you get to the OR /WA border, hit me up! I already love your family, your story, and how you guys do life!

  • P : Feb 20th

    Amazing, truly amazing! We’re very much looking forward to your posts. When you pass through our area (NB Mile 1312), we’d love to toast your feats with food and drink. Keep us posted!

  • Moe-Moe : Mar 28th

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading all your posts today, last to first, and wish y’all the very best of hiking, health, and happiness! I hope at least one of your children keeps their own journal for personal musings which they can later use for literal remembrances! Peace…


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