Dead Weight

Dead Weight became the unofficial Continental Divide Trail mascot last year. Starting the CDT thru-hike with an eight-month-old was… an experience. 

Dead Weight was an alarm clock most mornings. But who wouldn’t want to wake up to that smile???

Dead Weight was about to go by the name Luxury Item, but we decided that name would be best reserved for her toilet, which we carried every mile of the trail with her. Her other near-name was Trail Magic. Because, you see, that’s what Dead Weight was: Trail Magic. 

Unbeknownst to us, Dead Weight actually joined us for the last couple weeks of our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Around that same time, I was reading dueling articles to the kids about the virtues of PCT over CDT or vice versa as we neared Springer Mountain, Dead Weight was presumably listening in. (Although I think medically speaking, embryology class taught me ears don’t form in the first couple weeks, but we will go more metaphorical here.) As the kids decided the CDT sounded like the superior second trail, Dead Weight prepared to throw a wrench in all our plans. 

This was six days prior to finishing the AT. My wife is the gynecologist, so you’d need to ask her to be certain, but I’m pretty sure this is NOT the moment we got pregnant. I think the sign between us was adequate protection.

This wasn’t exactly a… planned… pregnancy. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It certainly was by no means a mistake. It’s just… our youngest was almost five at this point. At five, I stop wiping butts. (Although I often regret that for the first year or two, as more streaky and untidy whities end up in the laundry.) At five, I stop showering kiddos. (Why can’t you get clean?!) At five, I stop picking out clothes and dressing squirming escape artists. I was done. Dun dun dun. 

Surprise, Surprise!

Piper had a punch line for me. We were 41, soon to be 42 years old. Danae had a fibroid ten inches across blocking the entrance/exit from her uterus. Pregnancy was a presumed impossibility to me. Add to that the fact we stink to high heaven out on the trail, abstinence is supposed to be a pretty sufficient form of birth control. But there’s that one night, just one night that the kids go to bed early in a different room, there’s a shower so your stink gets cut by a third and you’re not grotesquely and nausea-inducingly disgusting and revolting and repulsive to your partner (we set the bar high)… that soft mattress replacing your camp sleeping arrangement… you let your guard down and your wife takes advantage of you in your moment of weakness. I tell you, I’m innocent in all this. 

You see, I married a gynecologist and I assumed she paid attention during the conception and birth control lectures in medical school, because I was apparently playing hooky that day. I still adamantly adhere to the notion I have been taught… ‘When a husband and wife want a baby, they kneel down and pray, and nine months later, the stork delivers a baby to the obviously-overly-indulgent-and-now-fat wife, whose job it is to breastfeed and change diapers and slim down, losing all that weight she gained while evidently joyously eating to celebrate the news a baby would be arriving.’ I mean, that’s just science, and you can’t argue with science. 

Queen Bee has a Parasite!

Anyway, as nausea set in a couple weeks after completing the trail, Queen Bee had a decent notion of what was up, being her ninth pregnancy and all. After returning to Chad for six months to gestate (and save lives and whatnot), Queen Bee delivered Piper Grayson (named after one of our favorite spots on the Appalachian Trail) back in America, her first Cesarean section, an experience she swore at the time would make her more compassionate toward her patients.

Piper proved herself to be our most challenging baby. All those families that stop after one kid… yeah, I get it now. This one is a pain in the butt. Or maybe it’s just the difference between having a kid at 30 and having a kid at 42, but this is HARD now. Luckily for her, she’s not ugly. I actually find her kinda cute. 

We’re Gonna Hike the CDT!

There was a foolhardy moment when Danae proclaimed, ‘We should hike the CDT pregnant. I can hike to Denver, have the baby, take a couple days off, then we will continue.’ Oh, Danae, you can be so clever sometimes. This? This was not one of those times. That was a stupid idea. 

Rejecting the notion, we undertook several more reasonable trips with baby Piper as a four-week-old. We hiked to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico on a three-day foray. Then it was Wheeler Geological Park in Colorado for another three days. We even went up Mount Elbert, the Great Sand Dunes, the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Petrified Forest National Park… Piper became one well-traveled baby. 

Queen Bee, not quite a month after her Cesarean, hiked up Wheeler Peak, the highest summit in the entire state of New Mexico, with Dead Weight.

Piper hit pause on our long-trail-hiking plans for 2021, but we came back in 2022 and tackled the Continental Divide Trail. The dynamic was wildly different than the AT with kids 4-11. For one, I kept reminding Danae, ‘You know the CDT is a real trail.’ She took affront to my insinuation the Appalachian Trail isn’t a real trail. ‘Well, Babe, we’re talking about long stretches without water and between resupply. Think of the 100-mile wilderness, but in a desert, over and over again. Throw in 13,000+ feet, massive thunderstorms, snow potential every day of the year, grizzly bears, and a lot more miles with a narrower weather window. Yeah, it’s a real trail, Babe.’ (She pretends to like it when I call her ‘Babe,’ despite her borderline-violent feminist ways.)

The girls loved playing with Dead Weight in the tent in the month after her birth.

The day for PCT permits came and we elected not to apply. The CDT would be Dead Weight’s first thru attempt. And so we decided it best to figure out these logistics. 

We should cover logistics in a separate post, however. For now, this is about Dead Weight…

We were unsure Dead Weight would walk on the CDT. But we knew she’d fly.

Dead Weight Tackles the CDT… in a carrier

We believe Dead Weight to be the first baby carried the entire length of the CDT, which is kinda cool. We could be wrong, and we’d like to be corrected if we are, but we suspect that’s true. Rumor of a German couple doing at least part of the trail in years past are circulating, but I’m not having any luck tracking them down. 

Boomerang proved to be a phenomenal big brother, but he’d never admit to it. He also drew the line at carrying the Osprey Poco.

Dead Weight’s minor celebrity fame grew as she melted hearts and the hiking season wore on. Quite often we’d hear, ‘Oh, we were hoping to catch you before Canada!’ (And EVERYBODY caught us before Canada.)

Dead Weight spent much of the journey sleeping, as infants are wont to do. Her awake hours were typically quite happily spent, although not always. One of our favorite ever hikers, who put in MONTHS of hiking with us (and might still be single ladies!), was Blizzard. He claims he had hiked with us for two days before he ever heard her cry. We heard it a bit, but she enjoyed herself mostly. Blabbering on in the Osprey Poco LT on Queen Bee’s back, they developed a bit of their own language, Momma finely-tuned into the barely-distinct sounds her baby makes. 

Oh, the things you’ll see… but not remember. Lucky for you, your momma took about a bajillion and eight pictures.

Dead Weight Develops a PERSONALITY!

We learned that Dead Weight LOVES music. Especially singing. But when she’s extra crabby and needs to sleep, it’s unfailingly ‘If you’re happy and you know it…’ We sang that dang song until nobody but Dead Weight was happy, and we all knew it. Uncanny. While Queen Bee had a hysterectomy prior to the CDT and the rest of us were all still in Africa, her friend Becky cared for Dead Weight while Queen Bee recovered for a couple days. Apparently she is to blame for getting Dead Weight hooked on that song. I used to like Becky, but I’m not sure I can anymore. 

Don’t you know how exhausting it can be keeping everybody entertained and happy?

Another of Dead Weight’s greatest joys is trekking poles. She has carried a single pole for miles. She also figured out how to pass a pole from one hand, across the back of Mommy’s head (only after repeatedly attempting to pass it THROUGH Mommy’s head), to the other hand. But her greatest discovery was her ability to control humans much larger than herself. She found she could throw a trekking pole on the ground, and the big humans would unfailingly pick it back up for her.

Eventually the big humans wouldn’t want to give it back to her, as picking up a pole from the ground while wearing an 80-pound pack isn’t the simplest of tasks. She would fuss and eventually get her way, pole momentarily in hand before attempting participation in the Olympic javelin tryouts once again. But for that moment she had the pole… it was hard to find a bigger smile on trail, either on the baby or anybody witnessing. 

Those First Steps… ON the Border!

One very cool, but admittedly kinda gimmicky, part of hiking on the CDT with a baby this age was… Her first steps would be ON the CDT! How cool is that!?! She would be 14 months when we finish. All our previous four kids had walked by then, so surely she would as well. Some of our kids were walking at 11 months. 

Why walk on my own? I got big siblings!

However, we drew nearer and nearer the terminus and she still wasn’t walking! Oh, mercy. Queen Bee would work with her on zeroes and every time we took a break, morning and night and in-between… come on, Dead Weight! Walk already! But nope, this baby was content to be carried. Maybe she feared if she started walking, we’d make her walk the whole thing!

Well, sure enough, we arrived to the terminus, and she still hadn’t walked. After a few hours at the terminus, we figured we’d give her a final chance. And her first few steps were legitimately AT the terminus, ON the border of Canada! So cool! Way to go, Dead Weight!

Hard to Remember Life Before Dead Weight

Dead Weight has changed our family dynamic considerably, both on and off trail, most so than any other child, with the exception of the first kid coming into our lives. The logistics also changed drastically, with additional layers of complexity, challenge, expense, weight and safety thrown in. 

But in the end, I suspect we will keep her. She’s pretty cute, if somewhat foppish. We will plan on her being our motivating alarm clock on the PCT every morning. But she’s our biggest wildcard. The other kids have proven they are capable of schlepping heavy packs long distances for months on end and enjoy it.

Ain’t life grand? It’s hard to beat joy like this. Day One on the CDT.

But now that Dead Weight loves to walk, will she be content to ride in the kid carrier, no matter how plush the Osprey Poco Plus may be? Or will she want to walk, albeit at a pace that won’t finish the trail? Will she just want to sit in the dirt and play? Or maybe some other family member could be injured, or a distant family member fall ill. There are so many wrenches that can be thrown into the gears of a thru-hike when your tramily has seven members, one of them only 20 months old. But we will give it a shot and have fun. And if it isn’t fun, we will find something that is. 

So here’s to you, Dead Weight. May the next trail with you be as fun as the first was. Keep smiling… keep pooping in the toilet… stay warm and dry and well-rested and well-fed… and Daddy will always be there to pick you up… and your trekking pole.

Dead Weight as an eight-month-old at the Mexican boarder.

For the write-up of The (record-setting) Beast, click here…

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 7

  • Tracey : Mar 21st

    I sometimes provide Trail Magic on the Hat Creek Rim. Hope I am out there when you guys come through. Best of luck and be safe on your journey.

  • P : Mar 23rd

    Great posts! Thanks for writing them!
    With Queen Bee shown sporting a butterfly on her cap and Dead Weight having a mosquito on her forehead, though, it doesn’t seem fair.
    Go Fam!

    • The Family : Mar 31st



What Do You Think?