Though we didn't know it yet, the first time we visited Mount Somers, I was 4-weeks pregnant with Dan. This was to be our first tramp with a child, even if he was the size of a grain of rice. Despite being a fit and experienced tramper, I was mysteriously exhausted by the short, relatively unchallenging track. Tramping with our Kiwi adventure team, Kay and Louie, we zigged when we should have zagged and took the Rhyolite Track to the South Face of the Mount Somers Track instead of the Miner's Track as we had intended.
We reached the hut, secured our bunks, and settled in for dinner and a few games of mahjong, our favourite after full immersion on a recent trip to China. The next day we continued around Mount Somers, pausing for lunch at the Pinnacles Hut before walking out to Sharplin Falls carpark. It was delightful and we promised to be back again for more.
The following year, we made good on that promise. When Dan was about 4 months old, we attempted his first overnight tramp at Mount Somers. We thought our plan was sound. In fine conditions, we would walk into a hut less than 5 km from the road end on a familiar track. We brought a support crew, our most patient (then) childless friends, Lisa and Isaiah, and discussed our plan with people with older children who had walked the track.
Now Dan wasn’t a particularly fussy baby. He didn’t sleep much, but he was generally good-humoured, especially when there were people to look at or when he was riding in the buggy. He was used to sleeping with us and was fully breastfed, so our only extra gear were his nappies and some tiny clothes. We packed up, popped him into the front pack and headed down the track. He cried and cried. It probably wasn’t much crying, but it was uncharacteristic of him and it threw us. So we headed back to the car to retrieve the buggy. Because someone told us the track was buggy-friendly. It wasn’t. We made it perhaps 800 metres down the track carrying the buggy over roots, rocks, and steps more than we were pushing it. Dan did not stop crying. Dejected, we turned back and drove all the way home.
We didn't try again until 14 months later. On our second attempt, we were armed with nappies, somewhat larger baby clothes, and the extra 13.5 kg weight of the toddler. I carried Dan in the backpack and Jack carried our clothing, food, tent, and equipment. We suspected that Jack’s pack was heavier than mine, but the contents of mine wiggled and pulled my hair, so we called it even. Dan hopped out of the pack to toddle along the track at times, pointing in awe to the grass, rocks, water, and birds.
This time we stayed true to our plan to take the Miner’s Track to Woolshed Creek Hut. Unlike our first visit, when I found the track to be easy and short, I was attentive and careful with my footing, conscious of the steep drop along one side of the track and the precious cargo on my back.
We descended into Woolshed Creek Hut to find it quite full; thankfully, we’d brought the tent as a backup. Dan diligently helped Jack pitch the tent, then plopped himself on the side of the creek to throw rocks. When we got home, he loved reliving his creek moments, exclaiming: “wa” (rock), “Nana” (Dan), “woh” (throw), “weh” (wet), again and again. The children staying at the hut happily included Dan in their hunt for skinks hidden under the rocks. One child took a particular shining to Dan and he christened her “doh” (girl). His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he realised that she, too, knew the words to The Wheels on the Bus. Girl explained that her family tradition was to go on your first overnight tramp when you were seven-years-old. Her brother had visited the Woolshed Creek hut three years earlier and she’d been holding out for her turn ever since. This was a momentous trip for both Dan and Girl.
After dinner and bedtime stories, the three of us cuddled up in our tiny 2-person tramping tent to go to sleep. Or not sleep, as the case may be. Dan found the whole idea of sleeping in the tent to be terribly hilarious for most of the night and could not seem to contain his giggles. At one stage, he seemed to settle down, but continued to crawl around groggily only to become disoriented when he reached our feet, “Mama? Mama” “I’m right here, Danior. Time to sleep.” Mad giggling again. We were relieved that we weren’t in the hut keeping everyone else awake, too.
As we walked, Dan seemed to enjoy his time in the backpack. He sang to himself, clapped, played with my hair, and pointed at things we passed. He slept a little bit on the way out, but those were desperate times given the lack of sleep in the tent. On the other hand, Jack and I were both pretty sore from the loads on our backs. The parents we met along the way gave us advice about tramping with kids. Most said that carrying children in the backpack worked until 2-years-old or so, but then the kids were too busy and too heavy to manage it over longer distances. Some suggested substituting day walks for tramping from about 2- to 3-years old, then gradually building up the distance to get back into overnight tramping.
Despite the lack of sleep and our sore muscles, the tramp was a hit! So much so that we did another at Lake Daniells, then returned to Mount Somers again a couple of months later with Dan’s friend Lulu and her family. We followed the same route along the Miner's Track. After Dan's good night's sleep in the tent at Lake Daniells, we decided to try sleeping in a hut for the first time. Our toddlers may or may not have trouble sleeping, but there is almost always a snorer in the hut, so trampers take their chances in any case. This time Jack carried Dan in the pack and I carried the gear (minus the tent) and neither of us were sore. Lucky for us tent-less folk, there was space in the hut.
Dan slept well with hardly a peep, while Lulu struggled throughout the night. The next morning, the people in the top bunk above us complained that it was an awful night for them. When they asked Dan if it was him making all the noise in the night, I was glad to be able to say that it wasn’t, but that only made me feel worse for Lulu’s mum who thought that she might never want to take her baby into a hut again.
Dan had even more fun with Lulu than he had with the older children on our first trip. They loved chatting from their backpacks, throwing rocks in the creek, and exploring the bunks in the hut. I don’t know if tramping with just our family will seem quite as fun after this.
Four attempts, three memorable tramps. Hopefully, our next visit won't be too far away.