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