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Living in 'promiseland'

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The hike up the Bonnie Brae Treadwell Ditch spur trail proved to be a suitable compromise for our little family. Outdoor adventures with little ones often involve a bit of compromise.   Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
The hike up the Bonnie Brae Treadwell Ditch spur trail proved to be a suitable compromise for our little family. Outdoor adventures with little ones often involve a bit of compromise.

By Abby Lowell
Timber to Tideline

My feet sloshed and squished around in my shoes like they were in a washing machine. The lower half of my legs seemed to disappear into the trail as thick, black mud coated every trace of skin beneath.

Somehow, my son had avoided the wretched mud holes. He bounded along, over logs and carefully snuck past wide leaves of devil’s club.

“The prickly parts,” as he called them, were “not nice.”

Besides being worried about those pokey and prevalent plants, my four-year-old seemed to care little. His eyes darted up and down along the trail and his smile was wide, like he’d stuffed an invisible orange rind between his lips. The 9-month-old on my back was in dreamland and her little mouth hung open slightly. We like to call this the “catching flies” pose.

If you’re just tuning in, my family and I made a promise nearly a month ago: To get outside more, no matter the weather, no matter the challenges — yes — no matter what.

On this day’s hike we were trying to make good on that promise; it’s a goal that’s proving harder than expected to achieve.

Back on the trail, I was not faring quite as well as the kiddos. Besides being covered in mud and who knows what, I was uneasy. With a baby on my back on what has been described as “the worst trail in Juneau” I feared a mis-step. Of course, there was no real danger, unless you believe in bog monsters, but I had hoped to stay relatively clean and dry. All my efforts were in vain and after the first few brutal mud-dunkings, I gave up.

Aside from the mud, it was a glorious summer day in Southeast. The air was dry and calm. The rainforest understory was draped in a thick coating of lush — ferns, devil’s club, mosses, blueberry bushes, to name only a few, spread on every surface — and the forest’s sounds meshed into a joyful cacophony.

Getting to this point had taken our family roughly three hours. There had been the planning and packing, then re-planning and re-packing. It’s not easy living in “promiseland.”

You see, we’ve always planned big; a “quick hike” for us is a jaunt to the top of Mount Jumbo, a “little outing” may be a run to the top of Eaglecrest and back. Our kid-free years were spent smiling at the top of many high points.

But now, with two little ones, hiking to the summit of a mountain via root-ridden trails and seriously steep everything, may not be the best idea. It’s not that I don’t trust myself, it’s that I wouldn’t want something to go wrong with a child in tow. Frankly, I don’t want anything to go wrong, if I can help it.

So my husband and I compromise a lot. We reel in our BIG plans and opt for something less strenuous. We squirrel away a lot of our ideas for a time when the kids are older and before we get too old.

At first, I’m always disappointed. By the end of the adventure, I’m always pleasantly surprised.

On this day, we had already scaled back our plans to hike Mount Juneau. At one point we considered Sheep Creek, but soon identified multiple possibilities for child meltdowns. We went back to the drawing board.

“What about a run out North Douglas?”

“Nah.”

“A hike at False Outer Point?”

“Too easy.”

We finally decided to keep it simple and hike out our back door on the Bonnie Brae Treadwell Ditch spur trail.

It was a good choice on all fronts — except for the mud holes.

The lesson: Outings don’t have to be epic to be memorable. But memories will not be made unless you get out there and make them. 

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