raising little ones in the great outdoors

1st Year in the Woods- Part 3

The final installment of Erin Kittrick’s story of the the first year with her son, Katmai.

Winter Again

Snow has opened up our backyard again. Nearly every day, Katmai and I wander the hills behind the yurt, sometimes on snowshoes sinking into loose powder, other times in shoes slipping on an icy crust. At nearly 20 pounds, Katmai rides on my back now, his head poking through a hole sliced in my raincoat. Asleep, his head rests on my back, fleece hat slowly accumulating snow.

Awake, he babbles happily over my shoulder, watching the dog run and roll in the snow with an excited “da!” that I can almost believe is a word…. We take fewer breaks now. And when we stop for lunch, Katmai still nurses, but he can also share my bread and cheese.

“He’s so patient!” I exclaimed to Hig near the end of a 7 hour hike, looking over my shoulder at Katmai’s smiling face.

“Actually, he’s not patient at all,” Hig corrected me. “He’s just happy.”

Baby Steps to the Future

Before Katmai was born, we didn’t know how portable a baby would turn out to be – or how easily this little person would slot into our lives. And as we plan more ambitious outdoor exploits for Katmai’s second year, I wonder what all of this means to him. I wonder what impact it has on a baby to spend so much time looking at trees and snow, rocks and berry bushes, tundra and rabbit tracks… A young mind is constantly learning, soaking up the foundations of understanding wherever it might be. But all he can tell us is a happy babble, a contented snooze, and the occasional wail of hunger or cold.

Maybe he’ll grow to love the outdoors. Or maybe not. He’s too young to tell us, and too young to decide. And maybe wondering about the impact on Katmai is the wrong question altogether. Katmai has joined a family of adventurers, therefore he comes on adventures, adapting to the circumstances of his birth like every baby everywhere. The three of us are happy, and Katmai has never known another way.

Katmai and Hig enjoying the forest


Erin, Hig, and Katmai make their home in Seldovia, AK. They combine “ground truth” with “researched truth,” using their scientific backgrounds along with their adventures to  further the conversation about conservation. They’ve trekked through over 7000 miles of wilderness (mostly in Alaska) since 2000. Erin has written a book on the year-long expedition  A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski, published by Mountaineers Books in 2009.

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4 Responses to “1st Year in the Woods- Part 3”

  1. Great series of posts Erin! We are learning lots about what it takes to take our family out on adventures. The only difference for us is that my wife and I weren’t trekkers before we had kids, so we are all learning it together as a family as we go, and documenting it on our blog.

    We are currently reading your book “A Long Trek Home” as a family together in the evenings. Great book!

  2. Jim Parker says:

    Great series of articles! Thank you!

    We are looking forward to taking our daughter out for a week-long backpack with us this summer. She will be six months old at the time..old enough to keep her head up in the child backpack and enjoy the surroundings as we hike.

    I’ve got a few “technical” questions to you and the other outdoor parents out there:
    How do you deal with diapers on a longer trip? Do you use cloth or disposable? If cloth, do you wash them out in the field or carry enough for the whole trip?

    Looking forward to any advice out there. This has been our biggest worry about taking her on extended trips: The weight and stench of a week’s worth of diapers!!

  3. Erin says:

    I use gDiapers. Basically, a compostable insert with a reusable cloth and plastic outer part. The insert can be dealt with like toilet paper pretty much, if you shred it up, or can be burned (we usually have campfires). The outsides don’t get dirty much, and when they do, it’s usually just the snap-out plastic part that needs a rinse.

  4. Nava says:

    I loved following along with your adventures the first year! So awesome you use gDipes!

    Do you have any pictures of the ripstop nylon carrier you made? Its hard to see what it looks like and you’ve piqued my interested! Is it more of a wrap or mei tai?

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