The Next Phase

By Forrest Smith -

Being a parent who enjoys the outdoors can be tricky. It seems as though what I’m able to do to get my nature and adventure fix comes in phases. Early on, when our little one was much younger, we could still put in some pretty decent mileage on backpacking trips. He is now older and heavier – we can’t carry him, and while he can walk, the distances we can cover is pretty limited. While we could probably do a backpack of a few miles, I’m not entirely sure it would be worth it. Of course eventually we’ll hit the phase where he can put in good mileage, but that is still several years away. I have been struggling a bit to find ways to get deeper into the mountains and to figure out what this next phase is.

Sierra Nevada Mountains

Of course a large part of my issues are because I live far away from the mountains. If I lived closer, fitting in solo hikes where I can push my body a bit and get deeper into the mountains wouldn’t be as big of an issue. However, we are a half-days drive from the nearest” real” mountains, and so any solution has to take that into account.

This past weekend we hit the Sierras for a four-day camping trip. I knew I wanted to do some trail running, but I didn’t realize before our trip that this would be the answer to what that next phase is.

On our first morning I went for a short run around the campground, and down a dirt road – a bit of a warm up and testing out my lungs at a higher elevation. The second morning I ran to a mountain lake and it was absolute freakin bliss. The run/walk up was a little challenging since I’m out of shape, but I ran what I could, and I was pumped from the run by the time I hit the lake. After spending a little time refueling and enjoying the lake, I headed back down, running most of the return journey. It was easily the happiest I’ve been in quite some time. I ran, jumped, and sprinted down the trail with the largest grin on my face. By the time I was close to the trailhead, I had to strongly resist the urge to give people hiking up the trail high-fives.

This is the next phase.

Trail running is the perfect option for now. I can get deeper into the backcountry given the same amount of time (I don’t want to leave my wife and little one for too long back at camp during the day), and I can get that same sense of physical exertion that I love about hiking and backpacking.

I’m already working on a few upcoming trips to test out this whole trail running thing more fully, looking for those campgrounds with great trails nearby, or even better, that lead straight out of camp. I can’t wait to get back out there.

Sierra Nevada Lake