Children do interesting things to your life. Most of them are soul-rockingly wonderful, others are just major adjustments — for me at least, very little of it has been negative.
To see Exhibit 243A on How My Little Girls Have Forever Altered My Life, compare the act of camping from 2007 to 2015.
In 2007, backpacking was still a central part of my life. The idea of carrying 50 pounds of shit on my back into the wilderness was thrilling, motivating and a highlight of my year.
Now, the mere thought of car camping makes my back ache. Seriously: a toddler whose favorite phrase is “hold you?” can do funky things to your spine.
And few aspects of camping have been more altered by my kids than my passion for photography.
Back then, I lived for early morning sunrises and crystal-clear evenings. Then, I would gear my whole schedule in the outdoors around photography opportunities at dawn and dusk. Now, my whole outdoor schedule is centered around the girls:
Are they hungry? What are they doing to the air mattress in the tent? Is the little one putting a rock in her mouth?
Again, I’m not complaining. Oh no, not at all. Watching my youngest dance with glee in a wet patch of wildflowers beside the tent is far more rewarding than a perfect mountain reflection on a lake.
And seeing my oldest learn the names of those wildflowers with one of her best friends? The same. It’s priceless.
In mid August, after we descended from the South Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hailey and I took the girls south into our favorite terrain in Colorado: the San Juan Mountains surrounding Telluride. With us were our dear friends, the Lambertons.
We last visited the Telluride area in 2010 when Varenna was just four months old. Now, she was getting to see these mountains again, and — I’m sure — remember their gorgeous visage for years to come. Lamorra (just a few weeks past 18 months old) would probably not remember it, but as with all kids this age, the amount of joy they pack into every waking moment in the outdoors is a constant reminder that us adults have lost our way. It’s reason enough to repeat the feat of camping every summer, despite what my back tells me.
On night one at the Matterhorn Campground south of Telluride, we had a “teenage” black bear visit the recently vacated campsite next to us, where he stood up, sniffed the picnic table, knocked over an abandoned bowl of ramen noodles, and then ran away. Varenna — seeing me go for a closer look — screamed at the top of her lungs. But days later, she would recall that it was the best part of the trip.
Late on our second evening, the sky opened up and sheets of rain refreshed every scent in the forest. In Colorado, no light is purer than the light after a thunderstorm. So we all delayed dinner, and drove the kiddos to nearby Trout Lake for its magical views at the evening hour. And while I had a Get Out of Jail Free Card from Hailey to be liberated from the kids and to shoot, shoot, shoot, I felt oddly disconnected from my compositions.
What does Varenna think of this view? What is she pretending to be in her play with Cora and Quinn? Is Lamorra staying out of the lake?
And the next morning, when I woke before everyone and had another Get Out of Jail Free Card to drive the highway and photograph Mount Wilson at sunrise, I felt it again:
Are the girls awake yet? Am I missing their breakfast? Do they see this sunrise from the campground?
There’s no going back. Camping will never be the same again, and that’s a perfectly wonderful thing.