Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
How do you do it?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Cullen Steele

Locale: Northwest
How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 18:42:00 MST Print View

I am a better person when I make the time to get outside and commune with nature. It calms my soul, offers critical perspective, and allows me to shed the superficial cloak so often required in my day to day routine. I have come to accept this as truth. There remains but one problem:

How do you do it?

Like many of you, I have a demanding job, bills, a loving wife (who also has a demanding job), and two young sons. I work, travel, commute, cook, organize family debris, play ball at the park, help with homework, and tell bedtime stories. Time is a precious resource, and I am constantly aware of the opportunity costs associated with my decisions. If I take this business trip, I will miss this little league game, or that parent teacher conference.

The ‘free’ time that the four of us share is so limited, that I bear a certain amount of guilt whenever I elect to take off and head for the hills.

It’s all about decisions and priorities, but I remain curious:

How do you do it?

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Bring your Family on 12/04/2011 19:09:28 MST Print View

For me the key has been to involve my family (2 young daughters) in as much of the activities that I can. This has meant limiting distances that i can backpack to and getting in much better shape so i could dayhike while carrying them both. They were 2.5 and nine months so the 2.5 year old can walk abouf 4 miles before needing carrying. And i am limited to about 8 miles carrying them both (60 lbs). But it still gets you outdoors.

I have the benefit of being an hour from the rockies so day and weekend trips are quite easy. For adult longer true backpacking trips i limit myself to 1 or 2 a year and usually a max of 4 or 5 days. So while i used to go out backpacking more i still manage enough trips to keep me happy and car camping with the family makes up for a lot of it.

So while how i experience the outdoors have changed i am still sleeping on the ground most weekends in the summer. I also plan on teaching my oldest to snowshoe and cross country ski to increase my winter outdoor time. I have also started my oldest on indoor rock climbing.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 19:37:54 MST Print View

I love my family too but it is important for ME to get ME TIME. My wife is good for one trip a year and my son is good for 2-3 trips a year and I am lucky to have many friends in the area that like to backpack too...Being a family man is all about your priorities-right? Just make it happen and I am sure your wife will understand that you need your FIX even if it is just for a overnighter. One trip a month is my goal except for November and December. I got in 12 trips this year and I can't wait for January 2012.

046. Passions @ Priorities

Good Luck!

James Castleberry
How do you do it on 12/04/2011 19:52:35 MST Print View

It's tough, for sure. I frequently spend Saturdays taking daughters to their basketball games, which puts a serious crimp in weekend hiking. If it's a Saturday and there's no b-ball and good weather, family knows I'm gone to mtns. Otherwise, I try to take the girls on camping trips and hiking or rafting several times a year, just because it's fun and keeps me in the outdoors and helps them understand where my head is at. Ryan J. did some stuff a while back about "24 hours in wilderness" that you might find useful. I find that planning trips just doesn't work out that well. Usually, an opening will appear in the schedule with less than 24 hrs. notice and I just grab it. I'm naturally a very early riser, so that helps.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 20:15:59 MST Print View

If you want to make time it will happen. So the story goes, Lee Iacoca demanded that his executives take their vacation time every year with the justification that he didn't want leadership that couldn't manage to arrange a couple weeks off with their families.

My wife is one to over choreograph her life. She sat in front of her DayTimer years ago and said, "I have no free time." Looking over her shoulder, I could see that she made commitments for every spare moment and I pointed that out to her. You need room for some spontaneity in your life. We do the same to our kids, with sports, dance, music, and other commitments, end-on-end. When I was a kid we had a lot of free time to play and I think that is healthier. There must be some middle ground.

I also worked to convince my wife that taking care of her children's mother (herself) was good for her children-- and their father too (me).

I think with some jobs, you make a choice between job, family and your personal life. I can see trading your personal life if the job is rewarding to you and you truly enjoy it, but the family trade-off is dicey. One concept I like is that you can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want.

Harry Chapin's Cat's in the Cradle:

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today
I got a lot to do", he said, "That's ok"
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

Edited by dwambaugh on 12/04/2011 20:19:24 MST.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 20:42:13 MST Print View

I walk out my front door, 4 miles later:

"yep, that's a big cliff... no, you're holding my hand"

or for "me" time

101* in Monterey, ouch

still has nothing on

a wee camelbak, sooo cute

now, time for

monkies like colors too

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 22:06:44 MST Print View


This has been on my mind lately too. Welcome to winter in the PNW, dark at 4:30! I'm in a similar situation with 2 young children and I don't have any answers. My wife is great about letting me go out, but the weekends fly by. I have to put a trip on the calendar or it doesn't happen.

In the end, I think it's ok to feel that longing to be outside, with others or by yourself (even at the expense of time with your children) AND it's also ok to feel the satisfaction of being at home (even on a nice day when you could be putting miles under your feet). Some days it's one feeling and somedays its the other.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 22:50:23 MST Print View

With kids you may not have "me" time, or you may be able to work it out. Kids come first! However, if you spend a lot of time with your kids AND your wife, then it is easier to find some "me" time.

Before I had kids, I moved to a place that was near a lot of areas for hiking and camping. This was done purposely, in preparation for the inevitable kid(s). This way little time is wasted on getting "there." Every year our family vacations were camping vacations, starting when the kids were both 6 months old. I did a few BP trips with my daughter, but she did not like it. The boy did. But it is difficult to take one kid on a trip and leave the other one home. And on a 2 week vacation it was easy to get in some great day hikes alone.

During the school year it was impossible to get much hiking or camping or backpacking in, because the kids were involved in sports and such. That required me to participate and I wanted to participate. But an odd weekend here or there, or even longer, allowed me to go backpacking. Every year I took the last 10 days of the year off. Spent 3 Christmas and 2 New Year days with the family and backpacked in between. The family was fine with that. Kids playing with gifts and the wife spending time with the extended family. Helps if you are a curmudgeon, folks kind of want you to go away any how! :)

But the easiest way for me to go backpacking was the ability to go on the spur on the moment, and not plan trips. Planned trips never worked out. But every year it seemed that a window of opportunity opened for me to take a few days off here and there, so I did it. But this kind of hiking requires you to always be packed and ready to go, be close to good hiking, and not have to deal with permitting problems. I remember one time in particular. I cut open the tip of one of my fingers to the bone. The Dr would not let me go back to work... but he did not say I could not go backpacking, nor did I ask! So I went on a week's trip. So reading posts here on BPL for the past 3 years, it seems I was able to do much more backing with small kids at home than some folks here do without kids. All the little trips added up over a year's time and no seemed to notice I was MIA.

Lastly, if you want "me" time, then you better work hard to see that your wife gets equal opportunity for her "me" time.

One last thing, I don't need to hike or backpack to cope with everyday life. I just like to do it, like some people enjoy football season. No great philosophical moments or enlightenment on my trips. So if the trips are necessary to fill some void or other problem created by work, then check your premise.

Anyway, you can find time for everything. Just make sure your life's priorities are properly aligned.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How do you do it? on 12/04/2011 23:01:14 MST Print View

Awesome cloud shot!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: How do you do it? on 12/05/2011 07:38:24 MST Print View

As a Mom to 2 sons and a third on the way here is my take:
I took my oldest on nearly every trip I did. I had no choice - either he came, or I stayed home. I didn't have the luxury of leaving him behind, I was his only parent.

Because of that Ford and I have a bond that is much different than many guys have with their kids here. For me, in the first 5 years of his life my priorities were a bit different. I only worked enough to pay the bills, 4 days a week - I worked very early in the day so I could avoid daycare costs (I ran an espresso shop and was the opener - I was used to seeing dawn 1/4 through my shift). We would spend 3 days a week hiking and camping. But it was also cheap. It was something I could afford to do as a single mom. But as I said....our bond is different. Being a single parent IS different than having 2 parents there.

In the next 6 years (5 to 11) they were different again - school would get in the way but Ford wasn't the after school activity kind of kid. He never liked doing organized sports or whatever - so again, he went with me. My husband at the time was on call almost every weekend, he didn't mind if we went backpacking. As Ford got older I would sometimes leave him home, but I never wanted to burden my husband with childcare on the weekend constantly - I saw his weekends as his time to relax. And I don't feel too bad for all the hiking I did during that time - my husband got to go on many International business trips solo - and would take side trips at times on the way back (for example stopping in and checking out Bavaria - he speaks fluent German, he lived in Germany as a teen - and doing a castle crawl without me!!)

But I also gave up a lot to have more kids - and this is something men don't always "get" is just how much of our personal selves women give up those first couple of years in a babies life. For example I fully admit I have NOT backpacked since the summer of 2009. Yep, the summer of 2009. You all think you have it rough? Yeah, not much sympathy from me. I had my second son in early spring of 2010 - I couldn't backpack or even hike after Thanksgiving of 2009 due to being a high risk pregnancy (I wasn't allowed to do anything, not even the gym). I started dayhiking within days of having him and yes, I got back into hiking full force during 2010 - and got in traveling but frankly, it isn't easy hiking with a baby. My husband would give me long days out periodically and I'd do a 15 miler but backpacking wasn't going to happen. But for me dayhiking fills my needs, that has never been an issue. Yeah, I miss backpacking. I miss doing crazy trips. I just changed - for example my husband comes on more trips. His job changed, he has his weekends. But I couldn't take Walker backpacking without another adult - Walker is a big boy and him, his pack and our day gear was 45 lbs by spring of 2011!! Which when you are 5'4" hurts to carry I might add. I got pregnant in late spring of 2011 again which stopped any plans of us backpacking. Yeah, I am sure there are plenty of women who hike their entire pregnancy. I am NOT one of them. For one I have a short person's torso so I have a huge baby in front of me. I got in ONE good hike in the summer of 2011 and it was a whopping 7 miles round trip. The last mile on the way up my friend had to be my personal cheerleader to keep going (I am glad she got me to finish). I am severely anemic (I take 3 iron pills a day) so hiking isn't something I can do right now. I haven't hiked in 2 months, not even on a flat rail to trail. My husband has been training Walker to hike while I am on modified rest till this baby comes (I am high risk) so that this coming spring/summer Walker can toddle along while I carry baby #3.

But I know that it will be years until I can resume the hiking I truly love - with the kids along - I know what kids are capable of - Ford proved they can do nearly anything with training. And my husband will give me day hikes alone so I can have "me" time again.

But I also have learned to find what I need in other places - I found hobbies I could do to lower my stress and relax me that were not hiking. Even a road trip to somewhere pretty or a weekend on the beach worked. I didn't need to get away from my family - I never did. I happen to like being with them. I simply shifted my priorities. Sure, I have days where I want to run away - we all do. But I also know that I can work through it. You have to be willing to give up part of yourself when you make a family - and if it means you take your kids with you and only hike 5 miles, then do it. But also realize that those years go by fast. My oldest is 14 now and I know that by the time the next kids are ready to be out there for "the good trips" he will be in college.

And as have to ask yourself: just how much of those after school activities that fill up weekends do your children actually love? How many do they need to do? There is nothing wrong with having a summer of nothing. But....I am also a SAHM so in summer we do nothing but have FUN outside. No daycare, no summer camps. Just letting him be a kid.

I can't tell you what to do. It has to come from you inside. Just don't end up being the guy who is a better grandfather than dad. My dad was that man. And only lived to see my first son be 5. He worked hard but for what? Priorities are everything.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
How do you do it? on 12/05/2011 11:08:39 MST Print View

Sara--you are amazing!

We pretty much gave up backpacking while our kids were at home. Yeah, we did a lot of car camping and day hikes, but you know better than anyone how hard it is to manange kids AT HOME, let alone on the trail.

But the good news is that it gets better. We discovered this one Easter when both kids managed to be gone for the whole vacation week on school trips--and we not only visited the Yucatan, but also climbed Castle Peak in the Sierra. And we haven't looked back.

But it's like fishing--you can go fishing or take your kids and help them fish. But you can't do both.

Kids are wonderful. So is the day when you no longer have to manage them!

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: How do you do it? on 12/05/2011 11:28:58 MST Print View

"No great philosophical moments or enlightenment on my trips."

pretty sure Ayn Rand thought your heart was tastier than horse flesh. 8P

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: How do you do it? on 12/05/2011 11:38:46 MST Print View

"Awesome cloud shot!"

Thanks man... I try and engage my boys with every sense available. My dad (a member of this site) did that for me, something I will do for them. Sights like that cloud were no stranger to me as a lad, it won't be for mine as well.

Perhaps if I bug him (dad) enough, he'll post the pics of me at 2 years old on XC skis. I'm still less clumsy on my bike, with a pack on or with some sort of snow stick things on my feet.

My fave are the pics in the Cascades (maybe the Sierras too) with me clinging to the top of his pack with my itsy infant hands. It never stopped... it won't with mine either

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Kids on 12/05/2011 12:35:08 MST Print View

Cullen how old are your kids/
If you have the feeling that you're "getting away" with a trip you probably need to consider whether you are taking more than your fair share of time.
Sometimes a long day hike is more relaxing than an actual backpacking trip to me. I love overnighers but if there are just too many things going on I find it easier to relax on a day hike because I know that in the evening I can still accomplish a few things (finish a paper, eat dinner with family etc.)
If you want to take kids your approach needs to change. You want them to like it so the hike should be planned around what they'll like. Consider it an investment. You're spending time with your kids which you will both appreciate after they're gone. Also you might just be teaching them to love the outdoors so you can do bigger and better things together as they're older. If you wait till they are 14 and than want to suddenly take them on a "real" backpacking trip you might find they have no interest.
Good luck!

Cullen Steele

Locale: Northwest
Balance on 12/05/2011 12:52:46 MST Print View

Thanks for all of the great perspectives and recommendations. I especially appreciated the insight on '24 hours trips'! As I suspected, the pursuit of balance is highly personal and something most of us struggle with at one point or another.

Luke - My boys are 7 and 5, and I involve them as often as possible. I am fortunate enough to live in Seattle with relatively easy access to some breathtaking scenery. In the past month, we have taken 3 day hikes through Discovery park and enjoyed the 'river walk' in Leavenworth. In fact, my profile pic is of me and my 7 year old in the Alpine lakes wilderness this past September. It was legendary! To my surprise the little man marched his way through two ten mile days (I had several bail out options, but didn't need them) and an intense out and back day hike to Jade lake without a single complaint! I think the three cutthroats he caught did wonders for his morale and stamina. I believe I have a new hiking buddy, and I plan to involve the younger one on some overnighters this coming summer.First fishSnow in SeptemberMountain goat

Edited by csteele on 12/05/2011 13:12:57 MST.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Balance on 12/05/2011 13:07:24 MST Print View

You might enjoy this series

Edited by annapurna on 12/05/2011 13:09:23 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: How do you do it? on 12/05/2011 13:26:24 MST Print View

I never had children so I can't really offer much. I will admit that I simply do not do things around the house that others think are important. The house is cleaned infrequently and not very thoroughly, for example. We do have pets and they do get in the way so our overnight trips tend to be short. For longer trips, I just go by myself. For really long trips I quit my job and blew off responsible life for a while.

But to offer a little bit of value, when I was a child myself, my parents took me camping from about age 1. I remember a little bit of hiking as a young kid. I remember a couple of backpack trips up near Courtright Reservoir in the Sierras. When I was a teen our church had youth group activities and there were yearly backpack trips and snow camps to attend. My family went camping every other weekend for about a decade while I was growing up. We absolutely loved it as kids. We'd car camp at a lake and I'd go fishing every day and later when we were older we'd go trolling for cute guys.

My mother took my sister and I on what back then were pretty adventurous trips for a woman alone with two girls. She took us to San Diego and Mexico, she drove us cross country to Minnesota where we spent several weeks in a cabin on Burntside Lake. We saw all the sights along the way, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, everything. She also took us to the Grand Canyon where my sister and I pretended we spoke a foreign language while we rode the shuttle buses around and later we hiked down into the canyon.

All these things are the best memories of my childhood. I did very little organized activities, just a few dance classes and music lessons. My parents made me ride my bike or walk to every activity I did, including to school starting with kindergarten. Even in the rain. Even with my period. Even though it ruined my Farrah hair. Life was different in the 70s, or maybe it wasn't, because I know for a fact bad things happened back then.

I believe my family instilled in me, at least, a wanderlust and appreciation for the outdoors and also a sense of independence.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Balance on 12/05/2011 14:05:21 MST Print View

Well if your boys are 5 and 7 they're almost ready to go. I think the worst stage is about 3-5 when they're too big to carry but too small to hike very far. Sounds like you got the 7 year old on the right track. Younger kids are pretty impressionable so I don't see any reason why they wouldn't enjoy going with you for a while as long as you make it fun. For ideas check out these

Also check out this blog

Damien has some great ideas and insights into family backpacking.

As long as you can get one or both of the boys to go along I'd say you can do it guilt free. I still remember things my dad did with me when I was a little guy. I've never met a parent who regretted spending time with kids. I'd encourage you to take them out as often as you can (assuming they enjoy it) once they're about 8 or 9. By the time they are 12 or 13 they'll start getting way busier.

Here's another idea to add to the 24 hour trip if you want to get off alone a bit. Take the whole family on a day hike to a lake or some similarly cool place. Once there have mom take the boys back home while you continue on a bit farther, camp for the night and come back the next morning. That gives you some time to yourself without cutting into family time too much. Might also be handy if the kids need to be at sports practice or whatever the next morning.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Between 3 and 5 on 12/05/2011 15:56:36 MST Print View

Any able bodied child between 3 and 5 can be trained to hike. It is a 2 way process - you must gently train them to do it and train yourself to also tune them out.

Look, I get the point that my oldest is a freak of nature (I realize not every child can do 10+ mile days at 4) but a child can learn to enjoy it. But with taking them often and not caving you can get little hikers. Every child should have a daypack on once they start walking. Yes, you will walk slow at 3. It happens. You take a lot of snacks and bribery. You rest often.

By 4 1/2 Ford walked at MY pace and kept up. By 6 he walked faster than me. My only rule was 'keep moving'. He could whine all he wanted as long as he kept walking. And eventually the whining knocks off.

I bought him the best gear I could afford - you cannot expect a child to hike without items that fit right. If I wanted something, so did he get it. I didn't expect him to cross snowfields without walking crampons or go snowshoeing without good snowshoes.

If we pander to children they will never learn to love things. Ford does love the outdoors because of what I gave him - but I also wrapped it up with modern life. Example? I never cared if he carried a game system with him. He took that Nintendo with him over thousands of miles over the years and played in camp. Who was I to judge? He had done what I wanted, so he got his time.

And please don't take this as criticism but the thought of taking the family on a dayhike and then have her hike out without the husband and she has to deal with the kids? That wouldn't play well with me. It is one thing to have her drop you off at Point B and pick you up at Point C (Kirk and I do this often with each other - we'll hike somewhere as a family and then one of us will do a longer dayhike) but overnight? That is asking a lot. Espically if the significant other isn't a hiker - look, either just take "me" time or don't. Don't make the family waste their weekend on YOU. And frankly, take the kids. Boys need their dads. Give the wife a weekend off from picking up dirty socks! Leaving the brats at home with Mom while Dad plays doesn't buy many brownie points......if I could tell men just that one thing - if you want to earn gold stars in your wife's eyes, give her a weekend of quiet!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Ages 3-5 on 12/05/2011 17:59:52 MST Print View

Sarah I don't think Ford is a freak of nature. Sounds like he's just very well trained. Good for you, you showed what can be done. If I came off a bit cautious thats because I normally assume parents who take their kids out haven't trained them like you trained your boys.

I don't take it as critism if you thought the idea of a split trip was a horrible idea, you obviously are going to know way more about being a wife and mom than me. Seemed to me like better than dad spending an entire weekend alone but maybe not.

Personally though I'll just come out and say that I think insisting on solo time from a family is just selfish at times. Note I said "at times." Its not always inappropriate. If you can do it and meet your obligations as a mom or dad good for you but don't count on it. I think parents who really take their role seriously are going to be making sacrifices. Welcome to the world of responsiblity!

"Boys need their fathers"
Yep true. Cullen if you're listening the absulute best thing you can do for the next 10-12 years is invest in your boys. My grandfather made sure he taugh my dad a few important lessons and now I'm benefitting from the awesome man he raised my father to be decades later. Trust me your boys WILL benefit if you make raising them right a priority even if you aren't perfect.