New Mom Natalie Magee’s Weekend of Firsts… First night away from baby, first mountain climbed, first night off
Friday was a special night in the Magee household – it was our first night away from Charlotte. My mom came and visited us. It was a pretty big deal to have someone willing to stay with the baby over night. Chad and I have been on a few dates by ourselves without Charlotte but nothing like a whole night away. I am an avid hiker of 14ers (is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet), and I was dying to get out into the wilderness with Chad. While there is no shortage of friends who want to hike with me, there are a lack of people qualified to hike most of the harder mountains that I have left on my list (I had hiked 27 of the 54 official 14ers before this weekend).
I asked my mom if she would stay with Charlotte while Chad and I went out to camp and hike a 14er, and she was thrilled. For her, it was uninterrupted time alone with her granddaughter and for us, it was a chance to get away while leaving her with someone we knew could handle the job 110%.
The mountain I picked for us to hike, Mt. Lindsey, is in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, in southern Colorado. You drive so far south you are almost to New Mexico. After picking my mom up for the airport, I kissed Charlotte good-bye and we were off. Leaving your child alone when she is three months old and breastfeeding takes careful planning. I had to pump enough milk during the week to get my supply up so my mom could feed her. Unfortunately, due to working out and being dehydrated, I am not one of those women who produce gallons of milk for their children. I calculated that at 4oz a meal with about 8 meals a day I had to leave at least 32oz for my mom to feed Charlotte. I also had to take my breast pump with me so I could pump while I was away to keep my supply up and my breasts from becoming too engorged. My fellow moms, this is perhaps the second worst part of leaving your baby – the constant pumping! We had to stop and get extra ice for the cooler and a water bottle so I could store the milk, as I was not about to throw this liquid gold away. We left Denver at 6:30 and arrived to the trailhead close to 11pm. Due to the windy and chilly air we decided not to set up the tent but to sleep in the car and set the alarm for 3:30am.
Our first night alone may not have been luxurious but it was wonderful enjoying each other’s company uninterrupted once again.
At 4:30am we set off for Mt. Linsdey. Aside from just the sheer love of hiking 14ers I truly enjoy being out in nature. When Chad and I are home together we don’t have a lot of deep, intense conversations. One of us is either taking care of Charlotte or cleaning the house or doing yard work. When we do have time alone we tend to be on our separate phone devices playing words with friends (against each other no less) and surfing facebook. Out in the wilderness though it’s just Bebe, Chad, me, and our hiking poles. As we set off on our 4 mile journey it was quiet, save for the birds beginning to wake up and the water crossings along the trail. There was no wind, and the temperature was perfect, even for our early start. I knew we were going to have a wonderful day.
We saw no one else on the trail in front of us and it wasn’t until we almost broke treeline that anyone caught up with us. The beauty of not hiking front range 14ers is that you usually have the trail and mountain to yourselves. A guy named Tim was hiking with his dog Barney, and he tagged along with us for the next 1,000 or so feet. Tim had hiked quite a few 14ers himself so Chad was left to marvel as Tim and I geeked out on 14er mountain hiking talk. It turned out Tim was from Ohio and was married with an 11 month baby girl at home. He lived in Denver as well. Amazing how much you can learn about a person at high altitude. I know I am guilty of spending so much time glued to technology that I do not open my mouth and mind to others as much as I should. Yet in the open air, as we hiked along, there was nothing to pass the time but to talk to one another, so that’s exactly what we did.
Tim did not think his dog could handle the Northwest Ridge route, so when we reached the junction between that and the gully, Chad and I split off. Honestly I didn’t know if Bebe or I could make the Northwest Ridge class 4 ascent ourselves, but I had promised Chad a hard mountain and difficult route in exchange for him accompanying me on the hike. We decided that we would just continue up to the crux and see how difficult it looked and if it was horrible we would turn around. There was truly only about 30 feet of class 4 climbing but this was complicated by the fact we had a dog with us. I scouted the route up the wall and stayed left of the giant crack, but then couldn’t see a good line to go once we topped out. I began to panic a little not knowing what to do. Chad looked at me and said, “well, we are committed now. We can’t turn around, and we can’t go back down.” Those words gave me the confidence I needed to keep climbing. We kept Bebe, our dog, in-between us, and there were several spots where we had to hand her to one another. The scrambling and route finding was challenging but fun, and I think we would have had an easier time staying on track if we could have stayed on the ridge line directly instead of traversing lower to find a better route for Bebe.
Once we reached the actual trail again, at the top of the standard route gully, we saw Tim coming off the summit. We chatted for a while about our separate experiences and then he headed down, while we continued on to the summit. There was no one else on the summit when we arrived; we were the second people of the day to make it up there.
We could see hikers at the saddle on their way in and decided to make our way back down before there was a big queue in the gully.
Not descending the route you ascended presents its own set of challenges. We could have made it down a lot sooner had our route finding been better. We started to descend down the North Couloir on accident, thinking it was the North Face, until a hiker above us saw us and told us not to go down that way. At about that time, I stepped on what I thought to be a stable rock, and it gave way underneath me. Fortunately, I moved before it gave way and took me down the gully with it. The descent was very slow going, and we knocked down several rocks that could have easily hurt anyone had they been below us. Chad and I kept our helmets on because at this point other climbers were starting to come up the gully, and we were afraid they would rain rocks down on us. I was amazed at the amount of people that were climbing that did not have helmets. All in all, we saw maybe ten other climbers on the mountain, and we were the only ones to have taken the class 4 route. I only saw one other woman who was waiting at the saddle for her friends after she decided not to summit. While I was never fearful for my life on Lindsey, I must say I grossly underestimated the mountain, and it was a lot looser and more steep than I had originally thought it to be. I was glad I hadn’t brought up any of my friends who were less experienced in mountaineering!
We made it back to the car around 1:30pm, putting our total hiking time at about 9 hours for an 8 mile hike. We could have shaved off time but for route finding issues. It was just starting to sprinkle on us as we reached the car, and I was thankful to have been off the summit by 10:30am.
After such a long hike I thought my boobs were going to explode, so Chad drove while I pumped. I was the only woman to summit the mountain that day and definitely the only person on the mountain with a breast pump! I was reminded once again that I am not the same person I was last summer. Anyone else I hike with will have to deal with me pumping as well. Not an easy task, but I am blessed to be able to continue to hike the mountains I love. I never felt winded or out of shape on the mountain which I attribute to my attendance at bootcamp starting 4 weeks post-partum!
Once the hike was over we began our journey home to Charlotte and my mom. We arrived around 6pm at our house, and my mom hanging out while Charlotte was napping. My mom has raised four children so she had no problem feeding Charlotte, putting her down for naps, or taking her for walks around the block. Seeing my mom with Charlotte made me realize how much I miss my mom’s presence and how fortunate I am to have her visit! The rest of the weekend we spent time at my friend’s baby shower and enjoying Jazz in the Park and the farmer’s market. Time went by too quickly, and before I knew it I was dropping my mom off at the airport. I was extra sad to see her go this time.
I returned to work and have an overnight trip this week so this night away gave me confidence that I can leave Charlotte and be all right. Having a child means there is so much more balance that has to occur in your life between what you want to do and what you must do. I know it is good to get away from Charlotte now and again because it makes me a better person when I return to her, but I hate leaving. I loved getting away with Chad this weekend, and we both felt it was a special trip. He is not the biggest fan of hiking so I truly appreciate Chad spending his weekend on the mountain when he could have been resting. Both he and my mom are the reasons I was able to have such a wonderful weekend and summit on an epic peak. For this and for so much more I am grateful.
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About the Author: Natalie Magee writes a regular column for Happiness Series about what motherhood and beyond - from prenatal to postpartum. Her intention with her column, "Baby & Beyond - What No One Else Will Tell You" is to give practical advice and tips to the busy mom and mom-to-be. She also shares her experiences good, bad and ugly as a woman, wife, mom, flight attendant and fitness instructor. Natalie is also a regular fitness contributor on Happiness Series. She will continue to create great, effective workouts for anyone - including the busy moms out there - who wants to get fit and stay in shape.