Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hiking in Colorado With Marla (Or Not)

The last 18 months of my blog can probably be summarized thusly:
1) We have a daughter named Marla. 2) I like curling.
3) How does having a young child affect a couple's road tripping and recreational activities?

Hey, let's talk more about topic #3! Since we've had Marla, our hiking expeditions have consisted of the following. (This doesn't include anything where strollers were involved, because if strollers are involved, it's not really hiking. That's just walking.)
1) At three months old, a walk up Clingmans Dome with a standard baby carrier.
2) At six months old, a walk up Hanging Rock with a larger baby carrier that we borrowed from someone. (Apparently we like going "up".)
3) At 14 months old, a few hikes in Vermont and New Hampshire with an even larger baby/toddler backpack that we bought on the cheap from Craigslist.
4) At 20 months old (two months ago), a hike in a nearby recreation area, as a test to see if we can still use that baby/toddler backpack.
5) At 22 months old, a hike in Deer Creek Canyon Park in suburban Denver, Colorado.

So, apparently, the age limit for that baby/toddler carrier - at least in Marla's case - falls somewhere between 20 and 22 months. She was pretty uncomfortable, and we called the hike short as a result, and decided that was that for the backpack. Off to the Children's Museum!

It's interesting, because when we see other families with young children along for the ride on these hikes, the kids are always doing fine. Never whiny. Is that just because the only parents who bring their young children on these hikes are the ones with cooperative kids? That makes sense, but how does anyone know until they try it? Surely there is some trial and error involved. For us, every hike is trial and error, because we only do this three or four times a year, and Marla grows and changes so much between each of those.

We could research this a little more and find an effective way to take a two-year-old on a hike, but, meh. We don't hike enough to make it worthwhile, and we won't be going on another "big vacation" until next year, so in the meantime we'll just stick with stollerable trails. And children's museums, of course.

(Disclaimer: If I sound disappointed when I say "Off to the Children's Museum!", that's not my intent. Generally on our trips, when Marla is happy, we're happy, even if we're doing something that Amber and I wouldn't particularly enjoy on our own. The idea behind these trips is, out of the universe of things that Marla will enjoy or tolerate, to find the things that we enjoy the most. I think we do a pretty good job of that, although there is always a healthy amount of trial and error.)

Now...a few words about Deer Creek Canyon Park. For our first morning in Colorado, I figured, "Hey, mountains are mountains! Let's just find the closest mountain trail to our Denver hotel and go there. And, hey, a 'canyon' sounds neat!

View Larger Map

Well...two problems. One: Deer Creek Canyon is barely the mountains, and it's still in the exurbs, pretty much. So, the scenery on your hike will include the occasional house. Not ideal, considering how much of a difference another 30 minutes west would make. Two: when they meant "canyon", did they really mean "mountain pass"? I haven't figured that out. Let's just assume we didn't hike far enough to see an actual canyon.

Despite all that, this still beat the pants off of anything in Raleigh or Durham. Sorry, folks, it's true.

By Colorado standards, this was a below average hike. It's no wonder Coloradans - and by the way, it's "Coloradans", not "Coloradoans" - spend so much time outside.

So, bascially, the moral of the story is this: Deer Creek Canyon - and this is true for pretty much any hike within shouting distance of Denver's 470 beltline - is a great hike if you live in the area, but if you're in the area on vacation, go a little farther into the mountains. Unless you have a toddler and want to keep reasonably close to the city, perhaps, in which case you're probably destined for the Children's Museum anyway.

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