Chances are, if you are an adventure mama, you were a pretty rad adventure woman before you added “mama” to your list of titles. If you were a lucky woman like me, you might have also shared this pre baby adventure-hard lifestyle with an equally zealous and bold partner. My husband and I bonded over adventure. Adventure is how we built our relationship. My enthusiasm and willingness to follow him on insane trips, bike rides and hikes is what made me unique in his eyes. Adventure is what drew him to me, and led us to fall in love. There are many traits unique to my husband from his Eastern European quirks to the way that man Skanks with no shame in public; but, his adventurous side was something that stood out the most.
I fell in love with the way he made me feel safe and encouraged while he led me far out of my comfort zone. I loved his patience with me while I was challenged both physically and mentally in the outdoors. Oh the adrenaline of adventure, mixed with young love, it doesn’t get any better than that. Our dates were never really “dates.” Our dates were kayaking Lake Powell, then waking up the next morning to hike Angels Landing. We conquered Half Dome, then drove to Vegas for a friends 21st birthday the next evening. I think our favorite and most common date was a long bike ride up Lake Mary Road in Flagstaff Arizona. It was all so simple, so sweet and so rewarding.
I think going hard and pushing yourself in the outdoors is a fantastic way to build a relationship from the get go. My husband saw me at my worst before we even declared ourselves a couple. I was a hiker and he was a biker, both mountain and road. I got to listen to him whine about his sore legs on impressive hikes, and he got to wait for me on top of long, steep hills on his road bike. He saw me take ugly spills mountain biking, and we got familiar with what one another smelled like after a week without a shower pretty early on. And let me tell you, the ultimate test to any relationship is navigating through an unknown city, mid roadtrip, pre-Google maps, exhausted, with a man you’ve only been dating a little longer than a month. He could have killed me then and there. But, we grew so strong because of all this and made way cool memories together too.
There’s something in the bond you forge with another human when you are tested physically, mentally, and emotionally and forced to lean into one another in order to make it. Not only did adventure bring us together, but I credit it, to some degree, for making our relationship so incredibly strong that it feels as though it can withstand anything, unshakable.
Naturally, all this adventure, love and adrenaline mixed with many happy nights camped under the stars with wine and beer are bound to lead to the inevitable new family member.
The last hardcore adventure my husband and I shared together was sometime during my first trimester of pregnancy with Tytus. We went to climb Weavers Needle, an iconic peak in the Superstitions of Arizona, with another couple… a double date I suppose. In true adventurous fashion we started too late and ended up doing all the climbing and technical work within the bubbles of light from our headlamps. We summited and set up to sleep under the stars in our sleeping bags. I felt so much. I felt gratitude for the moment and the experience, I felt pride for the accomplishment of doing it all while pregnant, I felt a reluctance towards what the future was bringing and the life I thought I had to give up.
Bringing a new life into this world is an adventure in itself. It is beautiful, and messy. It makes you stronger and it breaks you in ways you didn’t know were possible. It also draws you even closer to your other half, in amazing and beautiful ways. But it is not the kind of adventure we were accustomed to.
Parenthood definitely slowed us down. Actually, we hit the brakes on just about everything those first few months. How could we do anything cool with this little person along for the ride? Eventually we worked up complicated plans, like dragging a playpen down a canyon so we could climb. But it was so hard to get out and really adventure together. My husband was my adventure partner, and both of us doing anything together meant babysitters and pumping, along with the possibility that baby boy wouldn’t handle the separation well and we would end up bailing early. It was stressful. Leaving your firstborn can be hard on a mama. Going out alone didn’t really even cross my mind as an option.
Adventuring on my own, while my husband stayed home to entertain the tiny one all alone was an insane concept. Hello loads of mommy guilt. I would feel guilty because I got to do something cool and my husband didn’t, on top of the typical guilt you feel from leaving your child. However, this mentality isn’t fair to anyone. My husband wasn’t better off because I was hunkering down 24/7, and forcing us into complicated and difficult adventures in order to drag an infant along. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is awesome to drag that playpen to the crag and get a few routes in. Raising a child in that environment is awesome, and I’m making sure to do this with my boys. However, if that’s the only way you get to climb, then it happens less often, and it starts to feel like a lot of work. We both felt like we were losing pieces of ourselves and we needed to start getting out again.
Two things happened. First, infant boy turns into toddler boy and all of the sudden he is capable of joining us to do some cool outdoor activities with less gear and much more ease. But more importantly, we have fully embraced the fact that our future is filled with adventures to be had independently from one another. And that is okay. It’s actually pretty cool. We are leaning into the outdoor community of Salt Lake City, and most importantly the Adventure Mama’s Initiative, in order to get out without depending on one another. We have new goals and are able to grow in different directions. I’m sorry, I do not want to hike the Pfeifferhorn in January, but it is on my husbands to-do list now. He is going to go out and hike big scary mountains in the winter while I stay home with the little boys and drink cocoa and watch cartoons. But the tradeoff is that I got to climb among the beauty of the Fall colors of the Wasatch with another amazing woman every other Monday morning, while my husband stayed home with Tytus. I also went on an amazing 9 mile trail run with two of my other favorite women, while Tytus got some daddy time.
I love adventuring with other women and moms. I’m finding them, and getting out. I’m pushing myself and setting new goals. My husband is completely invigorated at going at it alone, pursuing hiking and biking goals that I don’t care to share. He is also climbing cool things with other guys. We still love adventuring together. We will never stop forcing our family to go out and do hard things as a team. I can’t wait to hook my toddler up to a big rappel so that my husband and I can do some technical canyoneering again. And when we do get a sitter and go on a date it usually involves some outdoor rock climbing. However, in the meantime we get out independently. It refreshes our souls and makes us happier more complete people. When we are able to recharge outside, either alone or with some friends, it makes us better partners and parents. And now, we have awesome stories to share with one another, and we can challenge one another to try different things. For example, after my husband bragged about his hike up Mt. Olympus and told me he wasn’t sure I could do it, I made sure to tick it off my list a couple months later when the opportunity presented itself.
Although we were partners in crime for all adventures that came our way, it is exciting to see how parenting has changed our adventuring relationship. Adventuring still brings us close, and is a passion we share, but we have learned that we won’t do every adventure together. And, that’s pretty awesome too.
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About Sarah Gorka
Sarah is an Arizona desert rat at heart currently enjoying the beautiful landscapes of Utah. She loves climbing, hiking, canyoneering, and camping. She and her husband have one little boy and their second is on the way.