Nap hikes: The gift of silence

When Baby wouldn't sleep, I set off into the woods—and she fell asleep! Nap hikes are a blessing for both of us. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We recently went camping for the first time as a family of four. It was Kiwi’s first time sleeping in a tent. And as I feared, my notoriously terrible sleeper slept pretty much not at all.

We stayed at Stub Stewart State Park just one night—a compromise to our usually longer trips since we figured sleep would be such a nightmare—and it’s a good thing, since I sat upright in our Forester with Kiwi alternately breastfeeding and dozing on me the entire night. I didn’t even attempt to get her to nap in the tent because I was tired, not insane.

So for each of her naps, I buckled her into my baby carrier and set off on a hike.

But even in my bleary, exhausted state, I treasured those nap hikes.

Silence is golden

I haven’t been that quiet, or been in the midst of such quiet, since before either of my kids was born.

My phone was dead from having used its white noise app most of the night. My wonderfully curious preschooler was back at camp collecting rocks and leaves. I had no one to talk to—not even my baby, as she fell asleep to the steady rhythm of my steps.

So I tuned into the forest.

I listened to water cascade over the rocks in a creek. I heard birds sing to each other. I heard my own breath, a slower counterpoint to my sleeping baby’s exhalations. I heard the subtle sounds of nature that usual life overpowers.

Listening to myself

As the world around me grew quiet, so did my mind. I let go of the bitterness of having slept only a handful of hours the night before. I stopped wondering what fun the rest of the camp was having without me. I found myself reveling in the gift of nap hikes.

After all, when I get alone time back at home, I fill it with something. I open my computer to tap out a blog post or send an overdue email. I try for the millionth time to unclutter the counter. Or I zone out in front of a screen, watching House of Cards or scrolling through Facebook.

None of these things is particularly restful.

But hiking in the shade of maple and Doug fir trees? Noticing the hues of purple of the wild foxgloves? Hiking at my own pace with no agenda? That is restful.

Nap hikes—getting your baby to sleep in the carrier—are a chance to get some alone time. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The value of alone time

I cherish my family, and the camping trip was a celebration of our foursome. But I also value myself.

Like most people, and probably every single mom who has ever lived, I seldom have a chance to just be—with no obligations, no distractions and no schedule. That rarity made the nap hikes that weekend even more special.

On one hike, the trails were entirely deserted. The only people I saw were two women on horseback. They called to me, waved and said something unmemorable about the beautiful weather. I merely gestured back—I didn’t want to speak and risk waking Kiwi.

“She’s got a sleeping baby,” the lead horseback rider whispered to her companion.

They stopped talking and I stepped to the side of the trail, making room for their gorgeous horses.

“Great job, Mama,” one woman said to me as they passed.

My only human contact on the nap hike—a few words exchanged with a stranger—was encouraging and so very kind. For the rest of the hike, my steps felt even lighter.

Ready for noise again

Kiwi woke a while later. Her big eyes, which are still turning from blue to hazel, opened wide. She stared at the patches of sky peeking between the tallest branches. She seemed to be a bit stunned, as if she were figuring out exactly where we were and why she wasn’t in a pack n’ play.

I was already on my way back to camp. I left the quiet of the forest and stepped into full sun.

My reentry into camp was anything but silent. I rejoined my family and friends and all the noise that accompanied them—laughing and shouting and cheers-ing tall boys and barking. But the quiet of my nap hikes made this cacophony sound even sweeter.

9 thoughts on “Nap hikes: The gift of silence

  • July 19, 2016 at 9:06 am
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    I love it! Nap Hikes is a great new term that totally makes so much sense. What a great way to take advantage of every minute of time that you have in that beautiful setting.

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    • July 20, 2016 at 11:28 am
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      It was beautiful – and nap hikes helped turn a major downer into a beautiful, restful experience.

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  • July 19, 2016 at 2:48 pm
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    Amen Sister! ME time is necessary for the soul. I’m dying to get out on a camping trip with my kids asap. I need some time in nature, computer free, phone free, distraction free. Just the woods and the sounds of nature. Good for you for getting a taste of that!!!

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    • July 20, 2016 at 11:28 am
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      Cell phone-free: That’s one “luxury” we do without too often. But when you’re in the woods with no charger in sight, letting go of your phone happens naturally!

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  • July 20, 2016 at 11:23 am
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    What a soothing post. I felt my own stress levels wash away as I imagined your nap hike! I go for hikes with friends on the weekend, but this is a good reminder to get away and enjoy a nature bath on my own from time to time. Thanks!

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    • July 20, 2016 at 11:29 am
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      I hear you. I like to fill any leisure time I have with friends and family and of course my kids, but sometimes a little alone time is just what you need!

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  • July 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm
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    Sounds like a lovely experience! I so miss the days of my little ones cuddling with me in their carrier. 🙂 I’m so glad you were able to escape the noise for a while and appreciate the quiet beauty of nature with Kiwi, even if she was dreaming of something else.

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  • August 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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    We went camping with our daughter for the first time Memorial Day weekend when she was 10 months. We didn’t stay at a park, as we never do. We roughed it in the middle of no where. She LOVED it, although sleeping was difficult. She would only nap in her car seat in our truck and at night she slept on my chest. I didn’t get much sleep at all! I couldn’t get comfy with her there! And my white noise app killed my phone, too.

    During hikes she was yelling at all the trees and our dogs and laughing at who knows what! No nap time hikes for us! She had a ton of fun, though.

    We went camping again the weekend before her birthday and had the same sleep issues. Oh well. One day she’ll figure out how to sleep in a tent.

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    • August 7, 2016 at 11:03 am
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      It sounds like an amazing first camping experience! I think we just have to count on not getting any sleeping when they’re this little. My 3 year old, on the other hand, slept much of the time – so there’s hope when they get older!

      Reply

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