A Mother’s Strength: Maternity Leave in the Glaciers

In 1995, my parents decided to take the trip of their dreams, but this wasn’t any ordinary vacation. Rather, they grabbed my sisters (an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old) and me (6-weeks-old) and took off for a week long camping trip in the Glaciers. Now, I don’t remember this particular trip, but I do remember the red Ford pick up truck they bought, that I later learned to drive on, and the pop-up camper that became an essential part of our family camping trips. But, this isn’t a story of those future trips, it’s the story of my favorite tale from that trip, one that still haven’t tired of hearing.

The Treacherous Trail

This story is about a hike, one picked by my big sister, the eight-year-old. She decided on the 12.6-mile hike to Cracker Lake, a trail that is a strenuous hike even without the addition of snow. Now, in late-June of 1995, the Sun Road had just opened, with snowbanks that were around 20ft high on the side of the road, making a lot of hikes strenuous, and this one even more so Of course, our parents decided that if that was the trail she was excited about, they were going to make it happen.

The hike to Cracker Lake is beautiful with stretches of forest and a view of a large waterfall. However, there are tight sections of trail with sloped drop offs, where the last thing you want to do is slip. Which of course, is exactly what Mom did. Dad says he saw both her and my life flash before his eyes, as I was bundled in a carrier under her sweater. However, she somehow managed to regain her balance after skidding, something he is still amazed by.

The rest of the hike went a lot smoother, other than the usual trials of hiking with children. Caiti, the two-year-old, wanted desperately to be just like Cathi, the eight-year-old. Her memories of the trip mostly revolve around how she was obviously old enough to walk, while everyone else remembers just how slow they had to hike to accommodate her.

A Beautiful Break

The Cracker Lake trail is an out and back, which makes Cracker Lake the perfect rest point. Our family took advantage of this without hesitation, taking it as the perfect place to eat lunch and rest up for the hike back. When we arrived, the spot was empty, but soon another pair of hikers happened upon us, tired from the difficult hike. While our break was a long one, this isn’t what those other hikers saw, rather struggling, they saw a mother nursing an infant, a father changing a two-year-old’s diaper, and an eight-year-old playing near the lake.

This hiking couple had undertaken a difficult hike, one I would have trouble with today, but when they reached turn around point, they weren’t met with a sense of accomplishment, rather a view of a well-rested family that was ready to take on more.

My Mother, My Hero

I’m not writing this post to make fun of the others who hiked this trail, although I hope I’m excused for bragging. Rather, I’m writing to talk about my mother 6 weeks removed from giving birth to her third child, who decided to take on the wilderness. Her breaks were for nursing and diaper changes, because as any mother knows, you might be able to take a break from hiking, but you can never take a break from being a mom.

My mother helped inspire me to love the outdoors, from 6 weeks after I was born to the family camping trips we still take today. The kids are now her grandkids, and us daughters are all adults, but the love and togetherness that we experienced that day, is just as present whenever we gather together around a campfire today.

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