Trail Craft with Toddlers- OHT Thru Hike 2017
Toy dinosaurs don’t fit under the category of lightweight backpacking, but the Broach family has adjusted. My (hopeful) aspirations of a CDT conquest have been shuffled to the back burner as motherhood and college take priority. Until an arduous six month trek can fit healthily into our family schedule, shorter adventures are jumbled between midterms, work, and a toddler’s agenda. This is in contrast to the life I was expecting after a child; my husband and I discovered that outdoors and hiking fit into our world quite naturally. Away from the chaotic stress of the city, we see our daughter blossom. This fearless little trailblazer will be joining us in the fall when we depart for a thru-hike on the Ozark Highlands Trail.
Lorelei, a spirited wild child, will be 3 1/2 when our journey begins. Hiking with a toddler has changed our dynamics significantly- we have no interest in accomplishing a speedy hike. She sets the pace. Some days, that means she flounces for miles along the trail before becoming distracted; other days, she wanders and explores as we inch gradually towards our impending goal. A thoroughly personal experience with the Boston Mountains awaits us. In the end, we will be doubling the time it generally takes to complete the 165 mile original route from Lake Fort Smith to Woolum, Arkansas. One month of nature. While we continue preparation before October, she will be tackling section hikes on varying long distance trails as we focus on travel and family in her final year before beginning school.
Dallas is consistently a voice of motivation in my life; He’s been the coach desperately needed during long section hikes in the freezing rain, and the hero holding my hand while I delivered our beautiful daughter. I could rave about my loving, handsome, hardworking husband perpetually, but I’ll spare you and simply stress his role in our thru-hike. Dallas has always been undeterred by strenuous physical challenges. We intend to split the gear between our pack’s so we can ensure Lorelei carries nothing but a CamelBak for comfort and convenience. This dedicated father is driven by the desire for Lorelei to enjoy well being attributed with a rich connection to nature. Minimalism is certainly his style. Dallas would happily wander into the woods, barefoot, with nothing but a knife and a dreaded feeling he was missing a UT football game.
Adapting a thru-hike to a toddler’s needs has been a challenge. Luckily, many outdoors companies are appealing to the market of lightweight children’s gear. Over the course of our trial trips we will be field testing her gear in formidable environments- a different stretch of the Ozark plateau in Osceola, Missouri, the Smoky Mountains in my home state, the Rocky Mountains, and the wonderland of Gros Ventre Wilderness and Grand Teton. Knowing our family will be far from any reliable cell signal, we have found ourselves obsessing over safety measures. The necessity of a satellite phone is apparent for our thru hike. Unlike the AT, the Ozark Highlands Trail offers remarkable seclusion, but the chances of going days without sighting a person is expected. Lorelei’s health is priority. So, we have delved into the confusing, and oh my God expensive, world of satellite phones(advice/personal preference to Iridium, Globalstar, or Inmarsat?). As we prepare safety nets for our worries, the majority of what I’m feeling is giddy anticipation. I can’t express how excited I am for my daughter to experience this- to truly live, grow, and learn in the outdoors. When I watch her dancing down the trails or splashing in the cave fed creeks, my heart feels bigger and any doubts concerning ‘am I doing the best thing for her?’ are nonexistent. Toddlers are completely capable outdoors; considering the adults present are prepared. The only negative? I never expect to see noticeable wildlife. Oddly, most deer are not attracted to the shriek of a child’s garbled ABCs.
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How will you handle food resupplies? I looked at the trail and there are 2 post offices and no good stores to walk to. I’m looking forward to hearing about your journeys!