Into the Wild
I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with Riley, but somehow the topic of backpacking came up.
At age 10, he is really excited about things like camping and hiking and generally being outside without rules or walls or homework. He asked if I would ever take him backpacking and for some insane reason I said sure, assuming he would forget about it immediately.
Spoiler alert: he did not forget about it. In fact, he started asking about it every day. I didn’t want to break a promise, so I pulled out my phone and found a weekend we didn’t have anything on the calendar. “HOLD FOR BACKPACKING TRIP WITH RILEY,” I typed in, Biff chuckling in the background.
Biff continued to chuckle all the way through my backpacking planning process! He kept reminding me and Riley that we’re “not really rugged types” (whatever that means), and I knew he was sure I'd give up and not go, but I learned long ago not to let Biff's teasing prevent me from living my best life.
And anyways… I’ve gone camping and hiking before! Sure, it’s been like… the KOA kind where you pull your car up and unpack your stuff into a cabin 10 feet away, and my hiking adventures have consisted of a couple of miles in Forest Park or around Multnomah Falls. So I MIGHT be a little unprepared in the backpacking arena, but I’ve always wanted to try. And trying is the first step toward succeeding.
For a second I thought maybe we could all go as a family, and I had fantasies of waking up to the sound of birds chirping and a waterfall in the distance with baby Leo nestled between us in a sleeping bag. But then I remembered there is a zero-percent chance that Biff would ever go backpacking. He hates bugs and not having a shower and being cold and sleeping on the ground (even with a fancy pad). Also, I am really sensitive to people complaining about things (it makes me feel like I have to fix everything for them and I get really upset that they aren’t having fun and then I don't have fun either)… and Biff complains a LOT when we go camping. So… just… no to inviting Biff. And Hailey can’t handle the walk from our front door to the car in the driveway. So that wasn't happening either.
Which left me with Riley. Notorious complainer Riley. But hey, he is very physically fit and he loves one-on-one time with me. Plus, this could be a good chance for us to bond, which we desperately needed to do because he was driving me completely crazy with his attitude problem.
So I used this amazing app called The Outbound to search for kid-friendly, beginner-level, one-night backpacking trips within a three-hour drive of Portland. I made a custom list of trips I thought he might like and then we sat down together to choose one. He hemmed and hawed a bit then picked Opal Creek. We had a destination! This was really happening!!!
I posted about the trip on Facebook and found friends to loan us a tent, sleeping bags and inflatable pads, a water filter, a cooking kit, and backpacks. I went to REI and grabbed a couple of extra things (flashlight/lantern for the tent so I could read to Riley, a pocket knife, a nice Nalgene bottle, etc.). They were super helpful there and didn’t make me feel like an idiot for having a printout of a “Backpacking Checklist” I found online.
I laid everything out the night before (Biff chuckling away in the kitchen watching me) and piled the heavy-ass packs into the car and set my alarm. “Tomorrow is back-packing, buddy! Go to sleep early because I’m gonna be waking you up at 6am!” He fell asleep with a giddy smile on his face, so stoked to be alone in the wilderness with just his dad.
I tucked him in and went to sleep myself… with big dreams of my first-ever backpacking trip with my son.
How did it go? Stay tuned for an update next week!!!