Let me just lay it out there: September is a grand month to be alive in this fair state of ours. The days are mostly free from the humidity of July and August, the nights are starting to get cool and are perfect for us who prefer to bury ourselves under the covers to sleep instead of toss and turn like rotisserie chickens, and the few black flies that remain from the summer horde are more likely to bring on reminiscence to times when they were fierce than they are the delirium of the summer’s full on attack. The best part, and the part that I am still wrapping my coffee soaked brain around is the general lack of other people that only a few weeks ago filled campsites, trail heads and parking lots to capacity. I guess of all the problems I am trying to figure out right now like where did I leave my favorite wool vest and how do I make a decent living with a wilderness bum resume, the whereabouts of a few thousand people who aren’t in the back country doesn’t carry a crushing urgency for me to uncover.
Where people weren’t recently was in Baxter State Park. It’s no surprise that the park was quiet the second weekend of September; school sports have to be practiced and the moose/bear/deer hunting season is right around the corner, but it seemed a little too good to be true considering the weather was more like July and the bugs were like late October. We found ourselves in the Lady Slipper cabin at Daicey Pond while good friends of ours occupied the Owl’s Nest, each with little kiddos and enough gear to comfortably ride out the winter. In short- the cabins were a smash hit, the pond is a gem and the views, well, if I hadn’t left the front porch all weekend I would have considered the trip time well spent, not that that was an option with the aforementioned little kiddos. The trouble, at least for my wife and I who get a little Type “A” in the back country was reconciling the difference between being avid outdoors folk who are more than likely to get up before the sun and be chomping at the bit to get hiking/fishing/paddling before anyone else and being parents of a 4 year old who often sets the pace for us as we prepare for the day and for sure once we head down the trail.
On the short hike from Daicey Pond to Kidney pond we fell to talking with our friends about the pace that is set by kids. Our friends, who also have sub- five year old kids, and we agreed after stopping every other step to give their kiddo time to pick up pert near all the sticks between the ponds and throw them into the woods, that while the pace can be excruciating slow to us adults it does give us the chance to experience Nature at the speed of a child. I’ll be the first to admit to rushing down/up trails to get to the end and I know that I can be fairly oblivious to my surroundings when I get in that mindset. By hiking slow, and I mean real slow, you see more animals, smell more intricate odors, hear more of the sounds of Nature and over all are more immersed in the landscape than if you are in ‘go mode.’ Now I’m not saying I want every mile long hike to take 3 hours, but hiking with kids forces you to change your perspective which opens up more doors to understanding and appreciation of the natural world, which after all is why we are there.
Here’s my challenge: To those of you who occupy life space with a little kiddo, take them hiking and let them determine the pace. I guarantee you won’t go very far, but I bet you’ll see more than you ever have. If you don’t have kids or can’t borrow any for a few hours here’s your activity: Head out to a local trail. Carry a backpack with too much stuff in it. For every 2 steps forward you take stop and count to 10 before taking your next 2 steps. Every 20 steps count to 30. And at least on one occasion you must backtrack 30 yards as if you were looking for a lost shoe…Try it, you’ll increase you level of Nature awareness and you’ll gain a new found appreciation for us outdoors folk who work so hard to bring our littles into the woods.
Paul Sveum, a former Maine Sport Outfitters employee, is a Registered Maine Guide, Fly Fishing Guide, Bushcraft & Survival Instructor, and a blogger…among many other things.