As I heaved the backpack onto my shoulders for the first time this year, I thought for sure I must be a masochist.  Last year, we began the season with a thorough butt-kicking; at the the end of the season I vowed to stay in backpacking shape throughout the winter.  Ha!  Again this year, I remained fat and lazy during the winter season and once again had my ass kicked by the trail.  Two days removed (It sure takes me a long time to complete a post), I can say it wasn’t as bad as last year, but Sunday as Dustin pulled the backpack off my shoulders I would have told you it was equally as agonizing. 
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Drake is another year heavier, and is also out of diapers.  While initially no diapers sounds like a cut in weight, the three changes of clothes disagrees.  Turns out it was wasted weight, Drake had zero accidents.  He loved peeing all over the backcountry, which we knew he would.  It was the pooping we worried about; he is particular about his routine; we thought for sure we would have a backcountry blowout.  Nope, he had no problem being without his froggie and the boon, and thought burying his poop was funny.  As for all the rest of the gear, it was still heavy.  Each time we have a debate about taking waders, and every time we are glad we took them.  Why do they have to be so heavy?! 
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Drake hiked a good portion of the trail.  We had to make some compromises for him to get into the pack when we encountered a steep section.  Once we mention the word compromise, he is agreeable.  I never thought I would be able to successfully compromise with a two year old, but alas, it is quite effective for us.  With Drake hiking such a large portion it took us about 5 hours to do 5 miles.  A bit slower, but we took the time to stop and smell a wide variety of wild flowers, examine different types of rocks, compare scat, and appreciate each waterfall, no matter how small. 
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From the start of the trip, I felt the weekend mimicked a National Geographic program.  As we pulled into Estes, pink clouds swirled down the divide; we drove above the clouds on Trail Ridge, and saw an incredible amount of wildlife, even by park standards.  Our campsite was paradise, for Drake and for us.  It was on an island.  On three sides were dramatic waterfalls, and a pool teeming with brook trout completed the fourth side.  Drake was endlessly entertained.  Sunday morning, Drake and I watched a small marmot go about his morning business.  Suddenly, he stood on alert.  Simultaneously, Drake said, “Mommy. What is that? It is a FOX!”  I thought he was being silly, but sure enough I turned around, and a fox was within three feet of us.  Holy crap.  As soon as I noticed him, he scurried off and went to inspect Dustin who was completely oblivious to his presence,even though the fox was at his feet as if it was one of our dogs.  Yelling to Dustin reminded the fox we were indeed people, and it scurried off.  Moments later, we were treated to the private world of the circle of life.  Drake asked me why the marmot was screaming and to make it stop screaming.  After the battle, I wondered if I should have let him watch.  If you desire to watch, I’ve included a YouTube video; make sure to increase quality to 1080.
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Sunday afternoon came too soon.  I didn’t want to leave this little section of paradise to return to reality.  Neither pictures I post, nor words I write could describe our weekend.  While pregnant with Drake, I thought Dustin and I would never experience the backcountry in the same way again.  Truth is, packs are heavier, everything is more difficult, cameras get broken more often (Yep, broke again.  We only had it back for a week), and each task takes ten times as long.  We spend less time fishing, we don’t travel as far, and we always have a little companion that needs 24-7 supervision.  However, as I bundled myself in my sleeping bag, closed my eyes, and let my fingers wander to Dustin’s hair, the sweet waterfall symphony washed over me and I felt the same intimacy with my partner, profound happiness, and a calm mind that I so relished pre-motherhood. How does the saying go, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Viewer discretion advised
Drake discussing animal diets

-Stephanie

Written by Stephanie Mullins

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