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The campaign to empower women (and girls) in the Outdoors

Part I: Confession, I am just as guilty…….

With many of the outdoor retail companies placing a marketing emphasis on women in the outdoors, I was initially humored by this concept. I chalked it up to a marketing ploy targeted to a demographic willing to spend money to feel empowered and fulfilled. I don’t need a retail company to launch a marketing campaign to make me feel like I can reach a summit or do something insanely adventurous while purchasing their gear. After all, I was shopping for climbing gear long before they were telling me “I am a woman, a force of nature, and I can summit Mt. Rainier if I believe in myself and buy some gear.” Regardless of how I evaluate myself, if this campaign is encouraging women to push their boundaries and feel more empowered, then I am equally as stoked in the end. But why was this even a campaign and how did it gain momentum and the support of famous, well respected athletes?

Throughout the 2017 year, I have taught classes to all ages and genders on topics such as rock climbing, backpacking, crevasse rescue, team rescue, backcountry navigation, and wilderness first aid. With the onset of this retail marketing campaign, I began to notice just how many women and girls own the thoughts that they can’t climb it, can’t hike it, too scared to do it, not strong enough, and/or don’t want to fail. Where do these thoughts come from and how do we begin to change this type of thinking?

When I started climbing peaks with my son, and I’m talking rope, harness, ice axe type climbing, I noticed a difference between him and his sister who is two years younger. He was/is an incredibly strong hiker, has no fear of heights and is driven to conquer. He also enjoys the solitude and rugged exploration found in the backcountry. This made him a great junior climbing partner. My daughter, was not physically built the same. She does not enjoy backcountry solitude and her eyes just don’t light up the same at the chance to conquer a route of the next degree of difficulty.

When they were 8 and 10, I asked them if they would like to join me on completing the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier and takes an average of 8 days to complete. My son immediately said he was in. My daughter, as I expected, declined the offer wondering why anyone would ever want to do take on such a lonely, exhausting endeavor.

I now realize, this was the moment, I began to box her into a particular mold. I explained to people that I had one kid, similar to me (big goals, love of outdoors, no crowds) and one kid that preferred not to hike or be in the outdoors but instead stay home indulge in more social, indoor hobbies. Despite her reluctance, I continued to bring her along on many outings as she would agree to, but not big climbs and push-your-limit routes. When the opportunity arose, I would leave her home and my son and I would  take off for a couple days, climbing summits and taking pictures to show off on our return. I was ok  leaving my daughter behind because I thought bonding with my son while my daughter had the freedom to be herself and not have to suffer in the outdoors was a reasonable compromise.

I was wrong. I mean, textbook bad parent wrong. Bad daughter raising wrong. And just plain bad leader wrong. Incomplete sentences in a blog post wrong!

I had become too black and white about my kids’ outdoor experiences. It was as if I was telling my daughter, “You can climb Everest with me, or go shopping with your friends, but there are only two choices.” My daughter started seeing herself as different from me. She sees her mom climbing big peaks, volunteering with mountain rescue , and teaching climbing classes  and she just doesn’t fit that mold. I was assuming because she didn’t find the same type of joy in outdoor experiences that I did, that she just wasn’t suited for it. Yet, it enrages me when I hear a mother tell her daughter, “I don’t think you should climb that mountain, it’s dangerous and it’s just not what girls do.”

This epiphany did not hit me while teaching a class, or through reading one of my countless, educational outdoor books. No, my enlightenment came through a series of events, each one dragging me another notch further from the coveted parent of the year award.

Last summer during a traumatic backcountry incident, my daughter, the youngest of the group on this trip, witnessed a near tragic accident and was forced to instantly cope an array of possible outcomes (death, serious injury, or someone else getting hurt too). She was confused and scared, over a 24 hour period her world was spinning out of control. Once things settled down, and we were safe at home, she was left was traumatized and broken. She spent her rest of the summer living in fear of the next tragic event. I became very sensitive to her outlook, approach, and overall emotional management.

I took her and some friends snow camping in February, six months after the accident. We camped just a half mile from the trailhead, just to experience hiking and camping in the snow together. Sometime close to midnight, I became very sick in my tent and only had enough time to sit up before I was throwing up all over my sleeping bag. My daughter woke up to me getting sick. I made the quick choice to pack up our sleeping bags, a few additional items and hike back to the car. She quickly threw on her coat, snow pants and frozen boots. As I unzipped the tent and noticing the fresh new foot of snow and single digit temperatures, I turned to her and said “As we leave this tent, you stay in arms reach of me and don’t stop walking in this snow storm. I don’t want to lose you in the dark.” She said nothing and quietly followed me. She shelved all of her discomforts and focused on following me in hopes that we get back to the car so that I could start feeling better. 

Two months later, we were out in Oregon backpacking the Oregon Coast Trail. It was her 2017 goal: to backpack the Oregon coast from north to south. It rained on us 3 of the 4 days. While many people would have been miserable with these conditions, she was not even phased. Instead, she focused on the wide beach having no defined trail and she was free create her own journey, write in the sand, chase the waves and find sea shells along the way. As the rain would increase in volume, she would dance more along the trail, enjoying the feeling of crazy weather with no boundaries. She was completely in the moment and on her own journey of happiness.

More recently I invited her to a join backpacking trip I was leading for a new class I was teaching with the Mountaineers: Introducing families to backpacking. This trip was their final “field trip” to completing the course, a 2 mile hike to a lake where they would set up camp for the night. With her outgoing personality and ability to make sure everyone felt included and welcome, I knew she would be the perfect addition to our group.  She spent the entire two miles of trail encouraging the little ones to keep going even when they were tired and chatted one on one with each of the kids about anything and everything. As the trail grew steeper, the kids didn’t seem to notice the extra effort and just kept the conversation going with her. When we arrived at camp, she gathered all the younger kids and led them to a nearby creek and proceeded to teach them all how to catch minnows and tadpoles. I thought to myself, “Really???? I didn’t even know these things were in the creek.” I never sit still long enough, or take the time to notice such detailed little things. I’m more likely to leap over the creek focused on my destination or the next trail marker. The following day, I found her and a new friend walking over to a 200 foot tall boulder-filled slope 200 feet west of our camp site. They decided to play tag among the boulders, some as large as my car. They climbed up and down each rock, lunging and balancing from rock to rock in an attempt to catch each other. They continued this game for at least an hour. In the end, knees were scraped and shins were bruised but high jumps were landed and they laughed and chased as long as they could before we had to pack up and leave for the weekend.

So my child that doesn’t want to climb a big mountain or hike the Wonderland Trail, finds value ensuring everyone is having the “best day ever”, finding immense join in the small things, dancing in the rain and blazing her own path to a destination. I had missed the point all along in outdoor adventures and boxed her in a mold she didn’t belong in.

The Adventurous Child that Adopted Me

This is Tyson. A funny, daring, energetic nine year old boy who really loves Jesus and outdoor adventures…..so you know, I may be a little partial to him.

I was introduced to him when he was five and he was beginning the adoption process with my brother-in-law and his wife. He had been shuffled between several families over the years mainly because he was so full of energy. The first time I met him, he stole my heart and perhaps broke a few of my ribs with a blindsided tackle (and he was only 50 pounds). That is how he typically shows me love.

He is the little guy on the soccer team running with everything he has up and down the field in hoping that the ball comes his way and even though he is only nine, he believes he can wrestle (and win) any match against his older cousins and uncles. If you ask him why he tries so hard or believes he is the strongest he will tell you that he has Jesus inside of him and He gives him all his strength. Then he is will follow by stating that he is walking miracle every day and that God makes everyday amazing. This is where I pick my jaw up off the floor and try to live like Tyson.

I think, what an honor it must be to be his parents because it is such an honor to be his aunt. Whenever we drive over to Spokane, he runs up and asks me “when are we going rock climbing, backpacking, or caving? Can we do all that in one trip?” He is always trying to find out what our next adventures are and if he can join. With an adventurous child with a lot of energy, I say give him a backpack and take him up in the mountains.

For the past three years, we have gone backpacking with him and his dad for a couple days in the summer and we always have a great time. Our first trip included two of three days in the rain and he fished and hiked regardless of the weather. He is the smallest, but fastest and strongest kid to hike with and almost always is excited for the adventure and grateful to be included. He has joined us on some rock climbing adventures and even an extended weekend of caving.

Earlier this week, I got the chance to take him, another nephew and my son on a special (no girls, except me) backpacking trip. What a blessing it was to see his face light up as we reached the high alpine lake. He felt so empowered to help set up the “boys” tent and arrange everybody’s sleeping bags. No log or boulder was left unclimbed and he was the first to kick off his shoes and jump in the lake. He taught me how to roast marshmallows by completely burning them and made sure to wake up before his cousins to catch sunrise with me.  He lives to embrace the world, find adventure and make connections with everyone. If there is ever a kid that truly lives in the moment it is Tyson and I am blessed to part of his life.

 

Teaching Kids Life Lessons on a Rock Wall

At 10:30 am, we arrived at the base of the rock wall known as Write-Off Rock. The heat had already began to melt everyone in the sun exposed climbing area. I immediately dropped the rope bag on the ground  of a 35 foot 5.9 route named Knife In The Toaster and asked my 11 year old son if he would like to lead the route. For those that don’t climb, I’m asking him if he would like to climb a route a degree more difficult than his last lead climb and as he climbs, he will clip the carabiners along the way to protect himself from falling too far should he slip. He was excited for the challenge and quickly climbed into his harness, counted out his quick draws, attached them to his harness and tied into the rope.

Before he took off, I had him tell me step by step what he will do when he approaches the anchors at the top of the route. “Mom, I’m going to place a locking draw on the top bolt, lock it and place my rope in the hanging locker. Then I will place the second locking draw on the next bolt and do the same thing. I’ll make sure all 4 carabiners are locked and then I will say “lower” so that you can lower me down.”

He took off on the climb and within 15 feet was met with the crux of the climb. He was getting frustrated as he felt around the rock and couldn’t seem to find anything to grip. Everything suddenly felt so slick and smooth. For about two minutes, I could see the frustration and panic in his face as he was starting to feel defeated. He lowered his head in disappointment and didn’t want to quit so early in the climb. Five minutes went by, he decided to grab a small little two finger piece of rock and lunged upward, found a new foothold and was instantly charged up again. He looked down at me with relief and yelled “sorry mom for yelling at you earlier.” He then continued up the route, climbing, clipping in more protection and moving upward. Finally he was positioned about three feet from the top anchors. With a minimal hand grip and downward sloping footholds, he looked up at his anchors determining what his next move is going to be. He was tired after such a long route and he knew if he fell from his current spot it will be a good 12 foot fall before he was caught, being that he is 6 feet above his last piece of protection. The direct sun and 80 degree temperature was making him feel worse. Instead of grabbing his locking quickdraw (as discussed before the climb), he grabs his personal anchor and tries to reach up to clip it in an off balance move. He misses the chain links. This was his ticket to freedom and relaxation. He repositions and makes another attempt and misses. This continued at least a dozen times with no success. I could tell from the look on his face that he was miserable and again defeated. He lowered his head and began to silently cry. I understand his disposition. I know the feeling of using everything you’ve got just to get to the top of a route and not have enough mental energy or strength to complete the route and yet knowing that you have to find it somewhere because the alternative is not pleasant. For thirty long minutes, he went from periods of resting, reaching and failing and the full gamut of emotions that came with.

As a mom, holding on to the other end of the rope, which will only catch him after he makes the 12 foot fall (if he were to fall), I am not worried, don’t feel sorry for his circumstances, cannot bail him out. I am right where I need to be. This is real life and the challenges that come with. It is having to stay up all night to cram for two exams, going to baseball practice even when tired because you committed to joining the team, standing up for a kid being picked on, or confessing something big to your parents knowing you will disappoint them. We want our kids to succeed and have the courage to push themselves beyond what they think they are comfortable with and capable of. We want them to learn to use their mental toughness and the grit it takes to earn those successes. As my son sits, 33 feet above me, he needs to muster up the courage within himself to prevail and the strength to get back up should he fail. He has to overcome his emotions, uncomfortableness and think with enough clarity to find his way through his situation. As parents, we have equipped him with the tools to succeed and even how to rebound, but for him to grow he must put these tools to use himself.  I cannot set my end of the rope down, climb the route and give him a boost to the anchor, just as I can’t take those exams or go to baseball practice.

Parenting, learning to release your grip and letting your kid experience success and failure is such a nail biting experience. In the end, it came down to pure courage and mental strength to push beyond his comfort zone, climb up a few more inches and finally clip that carabiner to the bolt. After I heard the metal click and the screwing in of the lock, I watch him hang there for a minute with tired satisfaction. His body was so worn down that he just hung from the anchor with arms dangling below. After a few minutes, he set up his locking quickdraws, ran the rope through the carabiners as he had talked about. I acknowledged that I could see the rope going from his harness, through the carabiners and back down to me and gave him the go ahead to unclip his personal anchor so that I could lower him back to the ground.

These moments stay with kids. My son will see a challenge and know what it feels like. He will remember feeling like he couldn’t climb that wall but then gave it just a little more when he thought he had nothing left to give. As he becomes a teenager and a young adult, life experiences will challenge him with the same walls to climb, with pieces of protection along the way and two parents in the background watching intently.

 

 

Managing an Emergency with Kids in the Backcountry

IMG_6767On June 6, 2016, I took my 10 year old son, 8 year old daughter, 12 year old niece, 10 year old nephew and a friend on a backpacking trip to Tunnel Falls, a 200 foot waterfall along the Eagle Creek Trail in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Instead, our trip was cut short and I found myself in the middle of near death accident, managing children throughout the experience.

The Incident

Managing children while in a crisis situation is difficult, to say the least. Doing so in the backcountry, with limited resources and support can be a gut wrenching ordeal leaving you torn between offering aid and managing the children’s safety and sanity.

It was an unusually cool northwest summer day. So surprisingly cool that we found ourselves scouring weather maps and guide books, searching for conditions more suitable for a backpacking trip with kids. Ultimately we would settle on Eagle Creek / Tunnel falls, just east of Portland. The Eagle Creek trail winds through a lush canyon visiting numerous waterfalls along the way.

Excited for the chance to visit this beautiful area, we loaded up. Cousins visiting from out of town necessitated the rare use of the third row in our family SUV. With a deficit of space, gear had to be stowed between passengers and under foot. In the front seat sat reinforcements, a friend who my kids knew as Teacher M.

We pulled up to the trailhead about 2pm. As I opened the door, kids and gear spilled out onto the ground. Just before heading down the trail I rounded up the kids for a briefing. Knowing the steep and winding nature of this trail I reminded them to stay close and always keep their distance from the trail’s edge. Our plan to hike 5 miles and set up camp. The next morning, we would hike the remaining mile, visit Tunnel Falls, and return to pack up camp; before heading back out. The events that transpired would ultimately vary drastically from our plans.

IMG_6769Around 5:30 pm, we passed over High Bridge. Sitting at least 100 feet atop the canyon, it marked mile 4 on the trail. After spending a few minutes admiring the bridge and taking in the view, we pressed on knowing we had only a mile to camp. About a half mile past the bridge, we came across an available campsite. Having hiked this trail before, I let the group know there were better campsites ahead. A little further down the trail, we discovered a campsite on the canyon side of the trail. We stopped for a moment to check it out.

While the kids explored the campsite,  Teacher M meandered toward the nearby fast flowing creek. Awestruck by the view, she called me over. As I made my way down the short makeshift trail toward the sound of water, I could see the top of the waterfall but not the bottom. Pausing a safe distance away, I pulled up my camera and zoomed in to snap a couple shots. As I watched Teacher M continue  around the cliff’s edge toward the creek, my anxiety grew.  . “You should probably…”, the words seemed to crawl off my tongue like thick molasses. As she turned, time seemed to stand still. Her feet seemed to kick out from under her as if she had landed on a spinning treadmill. Before I could finish my next word she started sliding. Her arms flailed about as her hands tried desperately to grab hold of the slippery, algae covered rocks to no avail. She grasped for anything that might hold her. As the creek carried her over the edge of the falls and out of view, I screamed out, “No, No, No!!” It was all I could do. I screamed as if somehow doing so might have the faintest chance of reversing the events I had just witnessed. As I stood there helpless, I felt as though my chest was going to implode.

Before I continue , I want you to know Teacher M survived and with minimal injuries. This post is not intended to be a suspense filled drama, but to offer advice on handling a crisis situation  while managing children in the backcountry. 

IMG_5415-1Four hours after I sent the first SOS message using my personal locator beacon, something I consider a must have when venturing into the backcountry with children, I was watching a skilled rope team extract Teacher M  from the canyon. The rope team and EMT’s arrived at the trailhead at 9pm and were to us by 10:15. Within 30 minutes of their arrival, she was pulled to safety and covered in coats and sleeping bags while a paramedic looked her over. She was able to walk out on her own that night, escorted by a dozen rescuers. I cleaned up camp, hung our food bag, tucked kids in for the night and attempted to get some rest.

Decision Time

After my friend was swept over the waterfall, I ran toward the small campsite that originally caught our attention. The kids were standing there unaware of the events that had just transpired, confused and and wondering why I was screaming. I yelled for three of the kids to stay put and not, under any circumstance, move away from the fire pit area and I told my son to follow me. FullSizeRenderWe ran out of the camp site, to the trail and back in the direction we came from. I was desperately searching for a way down to the creek below. The canyon was just getting deeper and deeper,there was no safe way down. Eventually, I realized my searching was futile and we ran back to camp. By this time, the kids were terrified.  I told my son to sit with the other kids and I  carefully started walked thru the campsite, toward the cliff edge yelling her name. After a few seconds, I could hear her yelling back. I carefully scrambled down to a small ledge which gave me a view of her without putting myself at risk of falling. She had worked her way to the canyon wall and had climbed up a four foot by four foot moss covered rock outcrop. She was pinned to this rock and if she were to slip she would fall about twenty feet down the second tier of the falls. She was only about twenty-five feet below me, but the walls were vertical and covered in wet moss. We hollered back and forth, she indicated she was cold and thought her arm might be broken and that she may have a head injury. I told her I would call for help and be right back.

IMG_5427I scrambled back up the hill to grab my locator beacon and activated the SOS emergency rescue alarm. While activating the device, I grabbed the rainfly from my tent, thinking she could use it as protection from the  freezing waterfall spray. At this point two backpackers happened to pass by. The kids told them that someone had fallen and they jumped in to offer assistance. They just so happened to have an actual tarp and were willing to lower that down to her instead of the tent rain fly.  Aside from sending down the tarp and later some hot water, all I could do was occasionally check in and reassure her that help is on the way.

The Crux

After returning from lowering the tarp, I was finally able to stop and catch my breath. My daughter was crying hysterically and begging me to stop moving and hold her. I pulled her close and she just balled her eyes out. She was shaking so much and nearly hyperventilating. I looked up at the other kids, they were in shock. They didn’t witness the fall but they were close enough to hear Teacher M’s cries for help.

IMG_6779Thirty minutes had passed since she fell and it was now 7pm. After giving each child strict instructions  to keep within a small designated area, I began to focus on the well being of each child individually. At all times while managing this emergency, I made the well-being and safety of the children my top priority. While I care for my friend and wanted to do everything I could do to help her; I could not, at any time, allow doing so to put the children at risk. This includes risking injury to myself, because by doing so I would not just be risking my safety but that of the children

The Steps

These seven steps were the main steps that stood out to me during this situation. Each were implemented and reevaluated throughout the night.

  1. Maintain Control: Regardless of the choices made, you need to maintain control of the situation as best as you can. In my situation, I needed to manage the four kids, their location, and well-being before attempting to communicate and offer assistance to my friend. Kids need to see that you are in control in order to feel secure in an insecure situation.
  2. Devise a plan: Once you have established some control over the situation, determine what your plan is going to be. This is critical to first consider the safety of children that are with you. If this incident would have happened without kids, my plan would have been completely different. However, based on the needs of the kids, the time of day, and the fact that I had sent for help using my beacon; I determined it best to stay at camp, communication regularly with my friend, and tend to the kids until rescue efforts arrived. Leaving the kids and running for help was not an option, because their safety would have been compromised. Hiking out with the kids would have posed a safety concern as the canyons were dark and the potential for getting hurt on the trail was too high.
  3. Set Physical Boundaries: Every situation is different and you as the parent or caregiver will know what the physical boundaries should be. In this particular circumstance, I made the boundaries a very limited area next to a fire pit. The boundary was a large log, which they were instructed not to cross. This boundary kept the kids at least thirty feet from the cliff edge and clearly it defined the area they were not allowed to pass. As the sun began to set, and light was fading, the tents became the new boundary. This ensured that no kids were moving around in the dark.
  4. Focus on children’s needs: The basic needs of children must be given attention. Shelter, food, first aid, warmth, etc. are paramount. Within minutes of the incident, I determined that we would be here as a group for the night. Once I determined this I had the kids set up the tents. Eventually, we realized we needed to eat. This was difficult for me. I was sick to my stomach knowing my friend was sitting below, trapped on a rock freezing, and could not bring myself to eat. However, children were hungry and did need to eat. Ironically, water was at a premium, as it was not safe to approach the creek to filter water and thus we conserved the water for meals and chose to feed the kids pre-made sandwiches that they would have eaten the following day.
  5. Keep the information flowing: Given the right situation and the maturity of the children, sharing information may be critical. While I was running to the lookout ledge and back, running 30 feet down the trail trying to get better signal for the beacon, and stopping to respond to information requests on the beacon, I initially was reluctant to share information. Eventually, I realized that sharing information would calm some of the kids. I then kept the kids updated on my friend’s condition and responses from the SOS texts. Informing the group of the text reading “Paramedics at the trailhead” or “Teacher M is ok, she is just really cold” were very reassuring and comforting.
  6. Talk about what you are doing: Based on maturity level and understanding of the children, try to talk through what you are doing. This has very similar benefits as keeping the information flowing. My daughter was especially sensitive to the chaos and felt far more comforted when I would talk through what I was doing and why I was doing it. When responding to an information request on the beacon, I would tell her who I was texting and when I was boiling water, I would explain to her that I was filling a water bottle with hot water to send to Teacher M to warm her up. Being informed made a big difference in my daughter’s sanity.
  7. Offer distractions: If you can find something for little ones to focus on besides the emergency, this will help settle their nerves (and likely yours as well). During our emergency, my son and his cousin decided to sit by the fire pit and attempt to dig up a giant rock. Sure….go ahead. This kept them less focused on the main event. With my daughter, I asked her to find our string of tent lights and decorate our “Help” sign. This activity helped distract her and allowed her feel a little bit of control in a very out of control situation. Eventually, I sent all the kids the bigger tent to just chat. This allowed them to decompress together.

When an tragic event or an emergency happens in the backcountry, with limited resources, managing the scene is a daunting task. Stress levels peak and it’s easy to become narrowly focused on the victim. With the added responsibility of caring for children, priorities and focus must be balanced. Hopefully, our story brings better understanding of how to manage children in a crisis situation in the backcountry. Or even just when out of cell phone range and valuing the complexities of caring for children. Knowing ahead of time how you will manage these situations, and having a plan of action, will be invaluable should you find yourself in such a situation.

www.backpackingwithkids.com

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Happy Father’s Day

Because I am married to an amazing husband, my kids and I have the opportunity to chase after our crazy adventures that we dream up. As Father’s Day arrives, I thought I would attempt to capture our love, admiration and appreciation of him in this blog piece.

To J-Hawk, Rosabell and Little Red’s Daddy,

Thank you for encouraging our kids to dig deep within themselves when they are faced with challenges that seem too tough. From steep sand dunes to tricky rock climbs, swift creek crossings, or just the final elevation push to get to camp, you always encourage the kids to push beyond their momentary fears or mental tiredness and challenge their inner strength to make them realize their strengths.
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Thank you for making adventures fun. This can be a tough task at times with kids. From playing football in a basin at 6000 ft. or tossing kids into every lake and stream, you add the fun aspect to all of our trips.

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Thank you for being the muscles of the group. Despite your own tiredness, you have hoisted a kid or two on your shoulders….while still carrying a 40 pound pack. You have been known to carry a combination of two 40 pound backpacks, or 1 pack plus kid plus dog, or a 60 pound pack plus kid just to make sure we all enjoyed our journey.
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Thank you for making the kids feel larger than life. You can see this in their eyes as they scramble up to a view point they thought they couldn’t get to or rappel down a rock face when they can’t even see the ground.

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Thank you for motivating the kids through the wins and loses. As each kid tags a summit or completes a tough backpacking trip, you are there to celebrate the victory. When the summit is just too far from reach or river current is just too fast to cross, you are there to help each kid stand tall in defeat.
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Thank you for being our super hero and scaring all the bears away in the night when the kids wake you up from every noisy non-bear animal walking in the woods. Thank you for encouraging the alpine goats to go hang out elsewhere so we can go to bathroom in peace. We are ever so thankful for never abandoning your “spider relocation” duty.
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Thank you for being selfless and walking each kid out in the middle of the night when they finally realize they do need to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW!

Thank you for teaching them survival skills like snot rockets, potty squats, using a blue bag, watering trees and baby wipe showers. These are valuable skills that sometimes can only be taught by a well seasoned dad.

Thank you for having level head. Not every parent can manage a two diarrhea blowouts (from the 4 year old) on a snowshoeing trip three miles from the car while the other kid slips into a pool of ice cold water and submerges both boots completely. Any parent might have given up when one was crying from being too cold and the other was screaming as underwear were being cut off. Instead, you threw one kid on your back and we all sang songs to distract from the discomfort for the next two hours back to the car.

I’ll add sweet pictures here since you don’t want to see that footage.

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Thank you for leading the way. When the route seems sketchy or intense, you blaze a path for the kids to ensure their safety and my reassurance. You are willing to lead a rock climb and head into a cave first.

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Thank you for your patience; a skill best challenged as a parent. For example, when one child arrives at the trailhead in two left shoes or when we used to wake up in a sea of warm liquid, or when the kids….oh, wait, I need to actually wrap this blog up.
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Thank you for supporting our crazy dreams and goals. We get this opportunity to run all over and explore because of your hard work. When we are out setting up camp below a summit, you are still at work. The kids and I come up with some crazy ideas and we love that you are crazy enough to join us.
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Thank you for loving our little explorers! We love you!

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