Living a Dream Part 3: Hiking the John Muir Trail

A 25 minute video can’t really do justice to the full experience of backpacking for a month with your kids in the wilderness. The video highlights the beauty, the silliness, the connection and the freedom of being out there. And there was a lot of that for sure. But there was also a whole lot of grit, grit between toes, gritting of teeth, the kind of grit that rubs parents raw and makes kids unfathomably stubborn. There were low moments, low days, and a few low nights (like on the two separate occasions when both kids puked in the tent all over themselves and our gear).

I’ve often prided myself on how cheerful and motivating I can remain in the face of frustration and hardship, but this trip definitely took me to the edge of my parenting and cheerleading skills. There were times with the kids picked up the mood but there were also times when we all hiked sullenly and silently for hours at a time.

So yes, while it’s true that we essentially “forced” our kids to do this hike with us, and yes there were plenty of days that at least one of them wasn’t happy about the situation, in the end, the gamble paid off.

I think ultimately this is true of any family adventure. Even the worst ones. You just have to find something to laugh together about, some shred of success to magnify, even if you have to pull it out of your ass (fart jokes never get old). From the earliest days I’ve believed that the gamble of getting my kids outside, even somewhat against their will, is worth it. Putting the toddlers mittens back on, warming their snowy feet against your stomach before you look in the snowbank for their missing boot, picking up the goldfish cracker crumbs that were flung with fury across the mossy rocks during a snack break . . .

From early on I’ve taught our kids that backpacking is just something we do. Like going to school, or going to bed at night. It can be uncomfortable, hard and super boring. But, I think the biggest selling point for our kids is that when we’re backpacking we’re together, working as a team, moving as a tribe. Everyone belongs and no one is getting left behind and that’s what kids really care about.

For the kids, it was almost immediately worth it. Within a day of finishing the trail they were feeling nostalgic and positive about the whole trip, they were proud of themselves, they felt good about their bodies and what they are capable of. For Jerome and me, we needed a few extra days of decompressing. Of not making anyone do anything before we could start to believe the forced-marching was worth it.

And now? Six months have passed, just enough time to forget how hard it is to wake up a teenager on a summer morning and we are all super-excited about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2023.

Link to video in YouTube:

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