Love of the outdoors still a shared passion, past time
By Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh
I was 18 the first time my mother and I took a camping trip together alone.
My parents were in the midst of their divorce and I had recently graduated high school and was preparing to leave for college in the fall. Mom and I had always been close but teenage rebellion and the tumult of the divorce had strained our once strong relationship.
I mentioned to my Mom that I wanted to get away together, and suggested we backpack our mutual favorite place in the world – the seashore in Olympic National Park in Washington.
We had both visited the seashore, at the age of 16 through a summer backpacking program. My grandparents had sent my mother on the six-week trip at that age in the 70s, and in turn my mother sent me in the 90s.
It had introduced both of us to the world of outdoor recreation and solidified our shared love of adventure and travel. Of all the places we visited on our respective journeys the Olympic beaches were mutual and a favorite.
The fog-laden northern coast with its temperate rainforest landscape, rocky tidal pools, sea stacks and abundant wildlife can only be described as magical and mythical. We decided it was the perfect place for a mother-daughter backpacking trip.
We flew to Seattle, rented a car, and headed to the seashore to hike and camp for five days. It turned out to be more challenging than we expected but the trials of the trail helped us to renew and strengthen our bond and escape for a while from the stress and confusion of our troubled family life at the time.
There was the hiking on sand, the stench of rotting seaweed piles, long climbs up rope ladders to cross headlands, scrambles over slick, barnacle covered rocks, mazes of massive drift wood piles and then the strange man who ran through our camp and into the woods on an unmarked trail late one night. The landscape was as breathtaking just as we remembered it being, with something new around every bend in the shoreline.
We arrived home just before I left for college with a renewed and strengthened bond, along with a greater understanding of each other and who we were becoming. For me, it was the first time I recognized my mother as her own woman with hopes, and aspirations beyond her children.
My mom told me later that the trip helped her during a critical time in her own struggle with the divorce. Knowing that her daughter wanted to be her friend too helped more than I will ever know she’s told me many times in the years since then.
We continue to share adventures. Last month, more than 14 years after we took that initial trip together, we spent three days traveling to work on my forthcoming book, Hiking Kentucky.
As we lay awake listening to the deafening cacophony of frogs and crickets at Taylorsville Lake one night, we talked and giggled about that first trip all those years ago. We had spent a sleepless night together then when we made the mistake of camping just yards from an island of barking seals.