My friend Karen and I have a bit of a reputation for intrepid, hair-brained adventures. We’ve pulled off biking and skiing in the same trip, we’ve gone on many night outings, we’ve gotten caught in blizzards in the middle of autumn, and we’ve taken a few wrong turns along the way.
But ever since the birth of my daughter a year and a half ago, our outings have been quite a bit more manicured. I’m often on a timeframe to get home to my husband or the babysitter, so we venture to places we know well.
But on a recent Sunday we not only re-kindled that adventurous spirit, we also introduced my daughter to the ways of Karen and Amy.
The objective: a day of bikerafting.
In the morning, we convened on my front porch. I hooked the Chariot up to my mountain bike, and into the Chariot went two packrafts, two paddles, three PFDs, warm clothes, a map, water and lunch – and of course my daughter, Grace.
From my house, we set out pedaling toward Teton River. Teton River snakes right through the heart of Teton Valley, Idaho. It’s a meandering and mellow river (at least the section near where we live), and flanked by birds and moose. The world-class fishing it offers draws visitors from around the world.
Our plan was to bike to a portion of the river where two tributaries pour in, creating lake-type conditions, paddle for a few hours on the flat water, then bike home. But, as so often is the case when Karen and I set out for a destination unknown, not all went according to plan.
We simply could not find that particular sport where those two tributaries join the Teton River, despite a map, cell phone calls to friends, and even asking the front desk lady at a nearby lodge. (To our credit, with hindsight 20-20, the directions provided by both friends and the lodge actually sent us in the wrong direction.)
Several miles and hours later, we arrived at a boat launch several miles beyond our intended destination. But no problem. After a picnic lunch, I called my husband to sweet talk him into picking us up at the end of the day – he agreed. We then inflated our packrafts, locked up our bikes and the Chariot, and launched onto the slow current of the Teton River.
Grace sat in the bottom of my packraft, tucked between my legs. The calm rocking of the water, the birds fluttering overhead and the warmth of her PFD, put her immediately to sleep. Karen and I enjoyed the peaceful scenery and chatted about this that and the other thing.
An afternoon storm started to brew, kicking up strong wind and the sound of distant thunder. I called my husband to start heading our way and we began paddling in earnest. A half hour later, our destination popped into view.
It didn’t quite strike us until the drive home how many miles we’d covered that day – something in the vicinity of 15 to 20 miles pedaling dirt roads, plus another five or so miles on the river. The experience affirmed for me that while excursions with kids take different forms, and risk-taking is always much more calculated and greatly tempered, the spirit of adventure can live on. And, in a big way, it’s much crispier and more satisfying when shared with a child.