By C. M. Paulson
Web Exclusive - July 17, 2007
"Are you sure that you want to do this?" My husband's question while making final travel reservations increased my already growing nervousness. Our trip to Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks sounded amazing. I had never been to the area before and couldn't wait to take it all in. So, where did all of this apprehension come from? At the time of the trip, I would be five months pregnant and our daughter would be thirteen months old. Not what most people would call ideal traveling conditions.
But we had never been like most people in many of our life choices, including travel preferences. Our vacations typically were to eastern mountain locations, such as Shenandoah National Park and the Adirondacks. We had hiked together in seven states before we had our daughter and had always preferred our active trips over a quiet beach vacation. But that was before kids—the big question now was whether my body would be able to endure an active vacation while pregnant and while handling my very energetic toddler.
I talked to my practitioner, who confirmed that I was healthy enough to travel and encouraged me to continue being active throughout my pregnancy. I wanted to see what other mothers had done in my situation, so I did some searches and ended up finding a good resource in gorp.com. The website specializes in information on outdoors adventures and offered an excellent authority in Alice Cary, author of Parents' Guide to Hiking & Camping: A Trailside Guide. At almost six months pregnant, Alice had hiked and camped in the Adirondacks and had a great time, although she was put on bed rest a month later because she had gone into premature labor. She didn't think that the activity contributed to the premature labor, but did say that she thought it was easy for pregnant women to overdo it without realizing it. Her hints for activity were very similar to those that I had heard before: drink lots of water, eat plenty of healthy snacks, watch your footing, and take frequent breaks. With this simple advice and newfound inspiration, I felt prepared to take the trip.
Before we left, we researched and identified easy to moderate hikes that we could do as a family. No, we wouldn't be hiking ten miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And we wouldn't be able to take the famous Grand Canyon mule rides since none of us met the requirements: you can't be visibly pregnant (me), you can't be over 200 pounds with equipment (my husband), and you can't be under 4'7" (my daughter). But there were plenty of great options for hiking that we could all enjoy.
We walked miles and miles along the beautiful Grand Canyon Rim Trail, much of which is relatively flat and parts of which are even paved. The views were amazing and we even saw elk and deer along the way. We found our way towards the end of the trail, where things started to get a little tougher. At one point, there quite a drop-off and nothing that would keep me from falling into the canyon if I lost my footing. Not trusting my pregnant balance, we turned around for safer trails.
We found great hikes at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks as well. We trekked on a range of trails: some easy and flat, others with some steep hills—all with views that did not disappoint. Throughout, we made sure to pace ourselves. My daughter loved every minute of it, especially the stream crossings that we did through Kolob Canyons. When she was tired, she fell asleep in the carrier as my husband hiked along. She woke up when she was ready and was very rested and calm.
That is not to say that there were no challenges. Our daughter screamed for about an hour on each of our flights, but knowing how much she loves to explore and be active, we weren't surprised by this. She did fuss a little on one of our hikes and often got upset while eating out, which seems to be more about her age and stage than anything else. In the end, though, all of my initial apprehension was for naught. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been worried at all. Why wouldn't my daughter enjoy the healthy outdoor air? Why wouldn't my pregnant body be able to handle an active vacation? If anything, it was the best thing possible for all of us—a respite after my daughter's first year as we all prepared for our new arrival.
C.M. Paulson is a freelance writer and at-home mother to her daughter Marissa.