This has been a terrific hiking season for me so far, but it's different from previous years. This year I have a little hiking buddy: My soon-to-be kid! I call her Dragon.
Dragon and I have covered a lot of ground in the past 34 weeks. We closed out winter at the Millcreek yurt, back when she was just a little tadpole making me sick. We scanned the horizon from high in the West Desert, explored a slot in Escalante and climbed down red rock waterfalls in Capitol Reef. We hiked through lacy groves of mahogany in the Raft River Mountains and went backpacking in Logan Canyon. We followed deer trails through autumn leaves in American Fork, and last week we got a lesson in humility on Mt. Olympus. In between, we did dozens of little weekday hikes close to home.
I've made some mistakes and learned some lessons. I'll tell you more about our biggest adventures in subsequent posts, but for now let me offer some general pointers for hiking while pregnant.
1. Check with your doctor. My OB — a hiker himself — has approved my outdoor fun with the general rule that I not overdo it (which I violated). That said, I've had a relatively comfortable pregnancy. No backaches, no foot-swelling, low blood pressure, very little nausea. Your doctor may have more specific recommendations and restrictions depending on your situation.
2. Hydrate. For me, this means using a hands-free hydration system (like a Camelback) with fresh, filtered water. I hiked Notch Peak in the west desert with nasty hose water, and I just couldn't gag it down. I ended up dried out, tired and worried for Dragon.
3. Mind the sun. No one told me I'd burn more easily, my eyes would be more sensitive, or that just being out of the shade for a long time could make me feel ill. I absolutely cannot hike now without a brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock. Don't forget your lips. Try to pick shady routes (Killyons Canyon was my refuge), and schedule sunny hikes early or late in the day.
4. Think about where you will pee. At this point, I would sadly skip the Queen's Garden Loop at Bryce Canyon, which I enjoyed at 18 weeks. It's not too difficult or scary. But at 34 weeks, there is no way I can walk 4 miles without copping a squat. On such a busy desert trail, it would be hard not to put on a show.
5. Seriously consider your risk threshold on rocky trails. For the first few months, I was pretty fearless. Now that I am less nimble, I think a lot more about falling. And not just big falls that could hurt Dragon. More likely is just one painful, bad step. How crummy would it be to have a broken ankle for these final weeks of pregnancy — or for the early weeks of Dragon's life? Or for labor? Think about consequences and go slow.
6. Use poles. They weren't quite as critical for me during the first two trimesters, but now they are 100 percent necessary for my overburdened knees and hips, and to help with balance and footing.
7. Avoid steep hikes once you get heavy. Uphill is not the problem. That's pretty pleasant so long as I pace myself and drink lots of water. But then I have to turn around and go back downhill. That's when my joints let me know I'm an idiot.
8. Wear sturdy boots. This sounds like a basic for every hiker, but in real life you see everything from Crocs to crampons on the trail. For the first few months, I was OK doing shorter hikes in light hiking shoes. But from month 6 on, I've needed the ankle and arch support of my heavy-duty backpacker boots. I wore low-topped shoes on a hike recently, and it felt really insecure.
9. Get some pictures. I'm too shy for the shirt-up belly progression shots, but I do regret not having a photo chronicle of my adventures with Dragon.
10. Hike because YOU want to. Don't be pressured by your friends or your baby daddy or your "I only gained 19 pounds during MY pregnancy" mompetitors. If someone shows you this blog post in an attempt to convince you to do something you won't enjoy, go ahead and stomp on their feet a little.