One of the most common questions we got on trail (other than “does he enjoy it?”) is why?
So why thru hike with a baby?
We never really considered the alternative
We assumed right away (before Toothless was even born) that we would thru hike with our child. We do that together so why not with our child? The only caveat was that if he just doesn’t get along with being on trail we of course wouldn’t force him to be hiking with us, but other than that the only question was “what trail?”.
It’s a great bonding experience
You can probably say our thru hike was an extreme version of baby wearing. We wore Toothless in a front carrier all day, every day, for months. Of course he got time to himself and would get to crawl and wiggle around but it was a significant amount of time every day that we carry him. And by carrying him like this, he faces the person carrying him and you spend hours close to each other and interacting. It’s a fabulous way to bond.
We got the time off work
We each had at least 6 months of parental leave set aside. The entire point is to bond with your child. With 6 months (maybe a little more) you could hike a triple crown with a baby. It’s not often you get the time off work that would let you do a thru hike, so we wanted to make good use of it.
Every day is different experience but with a pretty strong routine
This is key. At home, Toothless gets the same toys and objects to interact with every day. While we do different activities every day and keep introducing him to new objects, places and people the thru hike just kind of does that for you.
Every day he sees something new, or has a different obstacle to climb over or around. He is constantly being challenged yet we maintain a routine on trail that keeps him grounded.
It’s easier than when kids are walking on their own
Carrying a baby while they hiking is hard. But you can go a lot further while carrying a baby than with a toddler. Either a toddler wants to walk on their own (slow) or needs to be carried (heavy). Babies also love saying “yes” to new experiences as long as they get their basic needs and comforts met. There is very little resistance with Toothless on trail. He wants to see new things and be carried!
I never want my child to think that I have up doing cool things because of him
We want to adapt how we enjoy our passions and hobbies with our child, not give them up. If we can safely do an activity with Toothless that we love we are going to do it. I see sharing our values and passions with our child as one of our primary roles as parents. Of course we need to show love and ensure he is safe, healthy and happy but modelling passion and healthy hobbies is an important part of parenting as well.
I never want to explain to him that we stopped doing something because of him.
The GDT seemed feasible
We originally were planning a PCT thru but due to uncertainty with the pandemic we looked for Canadian options. Even that was close; we almost couldn’t even travel to the GDT trailhead due to travel restrictions within our province.
We wrote about the selection in more detail but there were three main reasons why we chose the GDT:
- We already hiked it and volunteer on the GDTA on trail building trips, so we know what we were getting ourselves into (and had a leg up on planning)
- The length and season for hiking it fit within our planned parental leave. Logistically it worked with our time off.
- We love the GDT and planned already on taking Toothless on a GDT thru (but we were originally thinking when he was older, like 10 years old).