Moms In The Outdoors
I wouldn’t be writing on this topic, as a mom in the outdoors if it wasn’t for the women who inspired me to take motherhood outside in the first place. I owe it to the badass mothers whose adventures showed me what was possible for my new life with a kiddo—they were my trailblazers and without them, I don’t think I would have turned to nature in this year of new motherhood and grief. I was first inspired by my daughter’s paternal grandma, who from age forty began spending her summers hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail with her sons. Her middle son, my daughter’s dad, spoke so highly of those experiences that he got to have with his mom at ten years old. Shortly after he died I found out that I was pregnant, and since the day I shared the news with his mom, she has become such a significant role model and support in my life. She took Olive and I out on the AT and showed us the ropes on our first overnight trip together.
Months before that, I spent my first night away from Olive and went backpacking for the first time with a friend. It was so healing for me, two months after my mom’s passing, so after that I started exploring the idea of backpacking with my daughter. I then came across the Quirin fam, who thru-hiked the AT with their one year old in 2017. I didn’t know of anyone who had taken a baby backpacking until I found their blog post through a google search. Reading up on their trek was one of few resources I could find to learn more about bringing a baby into the backcountry. I was stoked to find that it had been done before and that I could have those experiences, too. I’ve also been continuously inspired by watching the journeys of other solo moms on the trail, two 2021 thru-hikers by the trail names of Supermom and Turtle are both currently braving the wilderness with kiddos.
After experiencing the loss of my mom just hours before Olive was born, I was overwhelmed by post-traumatic stress. I started to use my phone constantly to distract myself and to quiet the unmanageable inner noise that my anxieties were causing. I was tired of letting this precious first year with Ollie pass me by while I scrolled and numbed. Taking ownership of my mental health and my growth is important to me, and I want to be a role model of that “face it head on, you’ve got to feel it to heal it'' attitude for Olive. Part of how I prepared to go backpacking was by doing EMDR therapy. I wanted to tackle the larger traumas with a professional, so they wouldn’t just hit me all at once as soon as I was out of reach of cell service. When I got out there, I was amazed that more often than not, being in nature quieted my mind like I was wanting but in a way where I get to be present for every moment instead of checking out.
I feel good about the quality time I’m spending with Olive, and the positive impact that being in nature is having on her little mind, too. The benefits of bringing kids outdoors is unmatched—from a boost in confidence, a sense of responsibility, an increased attention span, and a calmed nervous system, to all of the powerful mindsets they’re internalizing. Of course on any challenging adventure it’s not all sunshine and peace of mind, but it’s far more rewarding and there’s a greater sense of strength that comes from moving through my bad days on a trail.
Most of all, as stoked as I am to see how a childhood filled with nature shapes Ollie as she grows, the adventures are for me. I owe it to myself AND to my daughter to pursue as many of my dreams and desires as I possibly can, whether or not they include Olive. Because mothers have been conditioned for centuries to put their wants and needs last, to give their kids everythings even if it’s at the expense of their own fulfillment. Someday my daughter might become a mother, and as Glennon Doyle wrote, “If we show them that being a martyr is the highest form of love, that is what they will become. They will feel obligated to love as well as their mothers loved, after all. They will believe they have permission to live only as fully as their mothers allowed themselves to live.”
I honor my mom's life and her dreams by giving myself permission to live more fully than she allowed herself to live. I choose to live fully in my joy and fully in my pain, un-numbed. I choose to have my cake and eat it too, by living my dream of being a mother and by pursuing my other dreams, too. I’ll love my daughter by loving myself first and hope that she follows in my footsteps. I couldn’t possibly meet her every want and need in life so I’ll show her through example how she can give herself everything she desires, and where to go when she’s in need of healing.
For any moms wanting to get going and start exploring:
Know that it doesn’t matter how you take motherhood outdoors, whether it’s going on a nature walk or taking a weekend long trip on the Appalachian Trail, whether it’s with your babes or a solo getaway without them—adventure in whatever way works best for your fam.
However you do it, make sure that the trip is fun for YOU. Happy, fulfilled moms make for content kiddos. Your little will remember much more of the times they romped around the woods with you, when you taught them how to pitch a tent and filter their own water, and let them pack junk food for the trail like little hikers, than the times you took them to the park and sat on the sidelines while they played.
Remember that you don’t need to be the original trailblazer of something to be a trailblazer for someone else. By fully living your life and setting out for new experiences, you’ll ignite someone else’s spark for adventure without even knowing it—it could be your very own kid or someone you’ll never meet. So go first, get outside, and show others what is possible for them.
About the Author: Meghan Ramsey is a mother, sister, writer, adventurer — on a journey of healing through hiking, and showing her daughter how to live fully after great loss. Follow Meg's adventures on Instagram @meghanramsey and YouTube here:
May 9, 2022
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