When my husband and I are on vacation, we generally plan our next vacation. So naturally (and I hope you can sense some sarcasm here) when we were both on leave after the birth of our son, we planned a family vacation to the Grand Teton National Park! Silas was only 3 weeks old when we planned this trip. As a camping, backpacking, outdoorsy couple we knew we would introduce Silas to these things at a young age and we figured we would just go for it.
Initially, I admit, I was a bit nervous. Our baby boy was only 3 weeks old. I was still figuring out who he was and his cues for hunger; I hadn't even thought much about who he would be in a few months. But as I recalled past camping trips I remembered I had seen young children in the Boundary Waters, at the Grand Canyon, State Parks, heck I even have photos of me as a little babe camping. If other people were doing it, so could we!
We booked our flight, campsite and car rental all in the span of a few hours. My husband, Aaron, took the lead on planning the itinerary and meals. Since we didn't know what to expect he included multiple options for every day. The options ranged from fairly easy outings to longer hikes and day trips. We held off on introducing solids to our son, Silas, until after this trip so the meals were just for Aaron and myself. I was responsible for packing my personal gear and our sons gear. And together, my husband and I worked on packing our shared gear, making sure it fit into 3 checked bags. We had everything packed and ready to go one week before our trip with room for the daily essentials to be added last minute.
Our trip to the Tetons was at the end of August which allowed us the opportunity to do a test run. We reserved a site at Afton State Park during the month of July to see if we could really pull this off. We booked a site with a wall tent in hopes that this trial run would be as easy and straightforward as possible. We also wanted to keep our gear as minimal as possible and ended up filling the trunk of the car. When we got to our site, we were excited—baby's first camping trip. We unpacked a blanket for Silas to sit on while we unpacked the rest of our gear. But Silas is not a put-me-down kind of baby, so I ended up holding him while Aaron unloaded the rest of the vehicle. Shortly after that it was nap time for Silas, I nursed him to sleep while Aaron started to prepare dinner. Silas snoozed on my mat while Aaron and I just grinned at each other. This was the dream coming true, we were camping with our baby boy!
The night at Afton went pretty well. Silas stirred a few times at night, per the usual, but we all got some rest. By morning we realized some things we would need to add to our gear list for the Grand Tetons. Things like: a fan, a small light for night time nursing and a sheet to cover the sleeping pads. For the most part though, we felt very prepared and ready for our trip the following month!
The following weeks went by super fast, and our big family trip was here in a flash. We were ready. I gathered some tips for flying with an infant from YouTube. Our bags were packed, and our home was decently clean. We drove to the airport with such anticipation! How would all of this go?
On our drive to the airport Silas magically fell asleep in the car. The car was and still is his arch nemesis, so him falling asleep was unexpected. We parked at the airport parking lot and found a great spot at the end of a row. We transferred Silas from his car seat to our ergo baby carrier, and as we were walking to the elevator to head to the airport we found one of those luggage carts. Score! Could this all really be going this well!? We then managed to get to the airport, check our bags and get to the security check point before Silas woke up from his nap. Getting through security was straightforward and we ended up with enough time to get a sweet treat, fill our water bottles, go to the bathroom and let Silas have some play time.
Next step, the flight! We boarded the plan and got situated. I timed nursing Silas with the take off. The noise of the plane, low lights and breastmilk put him to sleep and he slept for almost all of the flight. The YouTubers I watched were right - flying with an infant was pretty easy!
We landed in Jackson Hole, grabbed our carry on bags and went to the car rental which was conveniently located in the teensy, tiny airport. Unfortunately, several planes had landed at the time, so hundreds of people were all trying to get their cars from a car rental that was not embracing technology and still employing a small amount of people to individually get every single car. We waited for almost 2 hours. We ended up getting a discount on the car and Silas had time to move his little body so it ended up being okay. When we did get our car and rental car seat we loaded up and hit the road. We stopped at Whole Foods for groceries and some lunch and at REI for some fuel and a small cooler. Now it was time to head to our campsite!
We stayed at the Colter Bay campground and were one of only a few tents. Everyone around us was in an RV, which I normally cringe at, but when Silas would wake up crying at night I was relieved there was some type of barrier. We bedshare at home, so we set up our tent up in similar fashion so that Silas and I were using two pads and Aaron had his single pad. I was in the middle and Silas on my right, which normally he sleeps on my left. The first night in the tent was long! Anytime Aaron or I moved it created enough noise for Silas to stir and wake up. Because he was on a new side I could tell he was super disoriented when he would wake and look for the comfort and nourishment from my body. Silas slept in, thankfully, so by the time the morning came around we were all awake enough to enjoy the day.
The mornings, evenings and nights were chilly. One night it even got down to 36 degrees Fahrenheit - eek! But the days were warm and sunny.
We took to the trails and actually had some longer hikes. It wasn't anything compared to the distances we normally go, but we got in a few miles every day. Silas would often take a snooze in the carrier, and we would take breaks for him as needed on the trail. I even managed to nurse him to sleep while he was in the ergobaby carrier. He was a happy camper! We used a combination of SPF protected clothing, sun hats and a handy sun umbrella to keep Silas out of the sun. Sometimes we would pack a simple lunch to have on the trail and other days we went back to our site to have lunch followed by afternoon nap. The naps saved us because the nights continued to be sleepless. After the first night we did change up the layout so that Silas was on my left, this helped a little bit, but not a ton. Every noise we made was amplified and woke up little Silas. This was kind of surprising because we did not experience this on our test run. We did end up playing some noise of waves on our phone which did help, but again, not much. Aaron and I joked that the sound of water would attract bears looking for salmon to our site. Thankfully, it did not.
We did see one bear during the trip. We also spotted a moose family! I told Silas that I had to wait 32 years to see a moose and that he was a lucky boy and saw 3 at the young age of 6 months.
It is hard to pick a favorite part because every day was so unique and special. Our second to last day was pretty incredible. We ended up hiking around Leigh Lake. It was a warm day, and a lot of the trail was in the sun. The trail didn't have much elevation change but it was a varied trail with beautiful landscapes. As we were nearing the end of our loop we saw that people were in the water. The water was so clean and clear. It was extremely inviting on this hot day and we continued on until we found our own little beach area. We sat down on the sand and quickly enjoyed some lunch. I was hungry but I wanted to get in this water! We changed into our swim suits and finally got into the pristine lake. It was so cold and refreshing. Silas even went in without any fuss. We played in the water for a while and were hesitant to leave. It was so picturesque and an amazing end to our first family vacation.
The only thing that motivated us to leave the lake was our new sleeping situation. Aaron had the idea to see if a cabin was available for the night so that we could all shower off, pack our gear and have a solid night sleep. I thought it was a longshot but surprisingly, a cabin was available! Once we got the news, we packed up our beach belongings, went to our tent site to pack up, and drove to our new home for the night. The cabin was spacious and provided everything we needed and more. We cleaned ourselves and our gear. We had a great night of sleep (great at this time was Silas waking every 3-4 hours) and we were ready for our departure day the next morning.
The flight home was similar to the flight out. I was able to nurse Silas to sleep for both flights (on the way home we had a connecting flight) and he only let out a few cries. We arrived back at the airport around midnight and eventually made it back to our car, drove home and went to bed. We all slept great that night and even managed to sleep in. Aaron and I woke with a feeling of adventure and accomplishment. We did it, our first big family vacation!