Now almost two years old, Carys has had the opportunity to discover more than some people do in a lifetime. At 2 months old she was already hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. The Tour is an epic hike that encircles the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the French Alps and all of Europe (Jen just published the last in a series of articles about that if you'd like to read more). Not surprising with a Mom like hers! If I had to define Jen I would say that she’s a Hiker (with a huge capital H). Being a new Mom and quitting hiking or backpacking was just not an option - since the TMB trip Jen and Carys have hiked the Dingle Way in Ireland and from Breckenridge to Aspen in Colorado. An inspiring illustration of “When there's a will there's a way”! She’s a full time working Mom and also the owner of the Blog www.NotJustForChristmas.net , a parenting Blog gold mine.
I’ve known this adventurer mother since before she had a little one, who was born 2 days after my son. Carys and Jen's story and fit family lifestyle are truly inspiring and I’m so excited to introduce her to you and share this exclusive interview with you!
Don’t miss an awesome giveaway at the end of the post.
Julie: I saw on your blog that you took your baby backpacking when she was only eight weeks old. What on earth made you want to do that?
Jen: I've been a hiker for a long time now, and one of the reasons I put off having a baby was because I didn't want to have to stop! I started planning our Tour du Mont Blanc hike when I was still pregnant. I had to wait and see how we would do with feeding and sleeping before I booked flights, but when it seemed like we were on the right track I decided to go for it! We had such an amazing time that when we got home I immediately started planning the next trip.
Julie: What on earth does the baby do all day while you're hiking?
Jen: Well Carys [rhymes with 'Paris'] slept the majority of the time on the TMB hike, because she was so tiny. We would take a break to feed her (and us) whenever she woke up, and then she would fall asleep again within five minutes once we started hiking again. On later trips to Ireland and Colorado I would make sure to be on-trail by 9am - nap time! Now Carys likes to point out trees, birds, planes, and even moss, which she loves to touch.
Julie: Have you ever camped with Carys?
Jen: Not yet - I've actually been a bit scared to try it. The hut system in Europe is amazing, and worked so well that I sought out hut systems in the U.S. for our trip last year, which is how we ended up hiking from Breckenridge to Aspen using the 10th Mountain Division huts. In Ireland you can 'backpack' from one bed and breakfast to the next, and the B&Bs will shuttle your bags to the next stop for you, so you only need to carry a daypack. That's still a 40lb daypack with the kid in it, but better than the alternative...
Julie: How do you get Carys to sleep at night when you're traveling?
Jen: On the Tour du Mont Blanc she was so small we were still swaddling her, so we would just lay her out in her swaddle on a Thermarest, which worked really well. In Ireland we used a Baby Bjorn travel crib because it's lightweight and easy for me to handle in addition to a big duffle bag when I'm dragging all of our stuff through an airport. In Colorado she had a sleep tent; it took some convincing to get her to sleep in it (we started when we were still at home) but once she warmed up to it it was worth its weight in gold for me to know she was safe in the next room at night - there isn't a travel crib on the market light enough to carry while backpacking.
Julie: What has been the hardest part of one of your trips?
Jen: Honestly there haven't been too many of them, thank goodness. When we got back from the TMB a friend asked me how it really was; not the fun stuff that was in the photo book I made, and I had to tell her "no, that is how it really was!".
But I do recall one night in a hut in Colorado when there were actually other people in the hut (often we had the huts to ourselves) when Carys woke up at 11pm and would not go back to sleep. She would fall asleep on my shoulder and each time I put her back in the tent she would start screaming again. I wondered if it would help her to sleep with me so I put her in my sleeping bag and it was a disaster - she was like a little seal pup rolling over and over with excitement. I took her downstairs and we played for an hour; she finally went to sleep at 3am. I was so stressed out and embarrassed because we disturbed our hut-mates so much, and I was pretty tired hiking the next day. If we'd had two nights in a row like that I would have bailed on the rest of the trip but the next night she slept like a log!
Julie: Do you have any tips for people who want to do these kinds of trips with their kids?
Jen: Start hiking! The best way to train yourself to hike with a heavy pack is...to hike with a heavy pack. The best way to train baby to hike is...to hike with baby. Carys and I go out for an hour or so every afternoon, and at 4pm each day she goes to the cupboard where the backpack is stored and says "Mama. Ba-pa."
Jen uses a cool little hiking mirror to keep an eye on Carys while they are backpacking (and Carys loves to look at herself in it, too). Jen has offered to give away a mirror to each of five randomly-selected Our Fit Family Life readers who subscribe to updates for her blog.
Just head on over to www.NotJustForChristmas.net before 5pm PST on March 31st and:
- Enter your email address in the "Sign up to receive updates when I post" box,
- Then verify your subscription when you get a confirmation email, and you're entered!
Winners will be announced here on Our Fit Family Life on April 1st, 2016.