Weekend Warriors

Have you ever listened to the Dirtbag Diaries? It’s a podcast put out by Fitz Cahall on all sorts of dirtbaggery adventures. Along with This American Life, it’s right up there as my favorite podcast. It takes me back to that sense of adventure that drives my spirit to get outside and do what I love to do. It doesn’t have the same feel as a running podcast, although I enjoy most of those as well, as information passed from an expert in training, nutrition, or running to other runners in the community. Dirtbag Diaries is more about a couple of friends sitting around the campfire telling each other about their last great adventure, or that time when they were scared out of their minds and didn’t know if they would make it out alive of whatever predicament they were in.

The last episode I listened to, “Sufferthon 12/28/12”, was just what I needed to hear. See, my life has been going through some changes recently, and I know I’m going to get raked over the coals for some of my comments here, but this is a community I trust and feel like I can talk to.

Max King - Zegama Adventure

Max King after adventuring at Zegama in 2012.

December brought child number two into our family, so that meant some down time from getting out of town for a while and sticking close to home. This shouldn’t seem like that big a’ deal considering the year I had last year and where I got to go but it turns out, adventures are addictive and when you get a small (or big) taste of that sense of adventure, you’re hooked and continue to need more until it becomes too much and starts to disrupt the rest of your life connections. I’ll be the first to admit that while I’m nowhere remotely close to it breaking apart our family, I can also see the flip side of that, where it easily could if taken too far. Lets just say that I’m extremely lucky that I can call most of my adventures around the world “part of my job” and use that excuse liberally, to the best of my ability, but also appropriately as it does actually help pay the bills.

But none the less, months sticking around the house with heavy responsibilities like a new kid and realizing this new reality isn’t going anywhere in the near future has a way of weighing on you if you’re used to heading out for the weekend with few responsibilities.  Obviously this is something that you know is going to happen when you have children, but I’m not sure you can ever really be ready for it. I don’t know, maybe most people are, however, I was not.

That’s why this last episode of DBD was a refreshing take on what it takes to make an adventure. Two guys from Corvallis decided with busy jobs and little time for a real planned escape, that they would make their own one day Sufferthon by packing in as much as they could in a day. Their first trip they biked from Corvallis to Eugene, got in a canoe and paddled back to Corvallis via the Willamette, then ran back to Eugene. Now that’s an adventure, fairly tame, but adventure none-the-less. They have three rules that they gauge whether it’s a viable Sufferthon idea with: 1) it has to be a real possibility for failure, 2) there’s both a physical and an emotional or mental challenge to it, and 3) there has to be some sort of struggle during the journey. The great thing is, these three elements are at very different levels for each person.

This got me thinking about all the adventures within a day of home for me and immediately I came up with about four or five that I’ve wanted to do for years.

By putting these out there I realize that maybe someone will beat me to the punch, well and most of these have already been done anyway, but most are not about speed and time, but about having a couple of great companions along for the ride, for suffering and having something to talk about afterward, and the main focus of enjoying what’s outside, along the trail (or lack of) that is within a driving distance of Bend. On my list:

  • Three Sisters Winter Ski Traverse
  • Three Sisters Trans-Wilderness  – Eugene (or Cougar Res) to Bend via wilderness
  • Hood-Adams-St Helens circumnavigation in two or three days
  • The Cascade Trifecta – Tried last year but didn’t make it, need to take a another shot at this one
  • Dirt route from Bend to Medford – not sure this can be done but have always wanted to try it
  • Steens Mountain Traverse – Alvord desert to Frenchglen cross country route
  • Wallowa Mountains adventure – anywhere, I haven’t been there yet but I hear it’s amazing

Well, I guess that’s more than five, but I kept coming up with new ones as I wrote the list. The point is, it’s easy to come up with a great adventure right out your back door.

Over the next few years I’m realizing that broad, week-long adventures to far off locations may be limited by the necessity of spending a bit more time with the family. I’m also working on trying to figure out how to include the family into these weekend adventures. With a wild three year old, staying at home is not an option for him or me, so, I need advice on how to bring a kid along. How do you do it?

Find me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what your secret is.

There are 30 comments

  1. AJW

    Hey Max, great piece! As you know, my wife and I have three boys, 15, 13, and 10, and we've been bringing them along on our adventures for years. I recall Shelly crewing for me back in 2000 with one of the kids in a backpack and the other in a stroller. It's fun. And, in recent years we've, among other things, climbed South Sister and Hyndman Peak as a family as well as kayaked the Nantahala River and Mountain Biked the Tsali Rec Area. The highlight of this summer, in addition to having my 13 year old pace me for the last 7 miles of WS, will be climbing Mt Whitney and Wheeler Peak. Trust me when I tell you that sharing the outdoors with kids is one of life's great joys, and, it's never too early to start! AJW

  2. Jeremy

    -Wallowa Mountains adventure – anywhere, I haven’t been there yet but I hear it’s amazing…

    I look at that range everyday from my home, yet never been there. It's so close, yet separated from me by Hell's Canyon. Probably the same length of drive from my home as it is yours. I've waited too long.

    I'll meet you there anytime. Idahoans suffer the best!

  3. Shelby

    I recall someone telling me that "one is fun, two is work". They weren't kidding!! But I wouldn't have it any other way. Life is full in the best sense of the word with two kiddos under 6. To have this AND running adventures is awesome! I actually think the that joy I get from my family makes the mtn running even sweeter. Adventures may be more sporadic than constant, but finding a way to bring them along from time to time will be great for your whole family.

    You didn't mention anything about your wife and what adventures she may dream of, but I've found that making sure my huz has adventures of his own (like mtn biking in Moab) enables me to enjoy mine.

    Good luck as you learn what balance and enjoyment of both family and adventuring come to mean for you.

  4. Charlie M.

    "Family-Work Balance" is hard enough for us slow-pokes with office jobs. Can't imagine what it's like for a sponsored jet-setter. First piece of advice is to get a double stroller, then fit it with mountain bike tires (with spare pontoon skis for water crossings), then just start pushing, over as many mountains as you can. Enjoy these years, mine will be 8 and 5 this year, and I miss those early years big-time! Their eyes are wide open to the wide world out there….

    1. Luke Garten

      I agree with the stroller. It was great to be able to run with my wife and daughter on lots of short mid week runs. Once my daughter got to be about 4.5 years old she no longer fit into her stroller and kept trying to put her foot in the front wheel. After that I have only ran with my wife once since then as we now take turns watching our daughter while the other one trains. I absolutely miss the family time that we could had running together. As soon as my daughter is good enough to go on long bike rides we will run together again! Until then I do all my midweek running in the dark with a headlamp to not miss any family time together.

      1. Ben Nephew

        For winter fun, the Chariot double stroller is great. I've seen people use the harness while skiing, but that doesn't work well for snowshowing, and I don't ski. What I do is just leave the handle on and use it just like it had wheels. With two boys totalling 76 pounds without gear, it's quite the workout trying to keep up with my wife on her skate skis. I really can't keep up with both boys, but I can with only one. Our 6 yr old, Gavin, can snowshoe or ski until he gets tired, and then jump in the Chariot with his little brother and throw his little skis in the back. My wife can ski with us or go off on her own, and I'm getting a workout most of the time whether it is with one or two passengers.

        My other suggestion for hiking is that good kid packs can handle more than the max advertised load, and this adds a great deal of flexibility to hiking trips. We did break a Kelty pack, but I think we were still within the weight range when that happened and they have probably improved them in the past 3 years. We now have a Deuter kid pack that is much more comfortable than the Kelty. Similar to the Chariot, Gavin can hike until he is beat, and then hop in the pack while I get my workout in. The two of us have had countless great hikes together, many of those are longer hikes that would not have been possible without the pack. You do have to be careful about how put on and take off the pack with an older child, though. I always try to find rock or log to put the pack on so I'm not going all the way to the ground, which is rough on the back and knees. When the whole family goes on hikes, we can either tell Gavin he has no pack option because I'm carrying our younger son in the Deuter, or my wife can take the 8 month old in fabric sling on her back, and I can carry the pack for Gavin if needed.

  5. Kristin Z

    yes, i think the supportive spouse helps immensely.. and making sure that the spouse that helps haul the kid(s) around to check points, aid stations, plays with them in a high alpine meadow while you run by (in my case, i am the runner), gets some time for their own kid-free adventures, too. i also try to only run races in beautiful places that we want our son (and us) to see and explore… oh bummer. :)

    things that work for us with the kiddo (and a husband that travels a ton):

    1. frequent flier miles and hotel points rock

    2. hotel pools and hotels with breakfast places rock

    3. my kiddo love to hike now that he has his very own hydration pack and "aid station food" (z-bars from clif, snacks we pre-pack)

    4. jr. ranger programs at national parks and other parks are awesome. this kept my 3.5y/o son busy with dad while i did the rim2rim2rim in the grand canyon for a good chunk of the day.

    5. soft backpack carriers (like ergo) are awesome, even when your kid is fairly big. they're easy to pack and can be pulled out when your little one decides he's absoutely not walking another step and you're still a wayyyyyyys from the car… kid on the back, hydration pack on the front, call me a mule.

    6. nature provides most of the entertainment, but a couple crayons, some paper, a roald dahl book, and an extra camera are pretty fun and easy to stuff in any bag for airports, cabins, aid stations, etc.

    7. i miss out on a lot of the pre and post race fun as our race and running adventure trips are more condensed… some day, when my son is older, i hope this changes…

    happy planning!


  6. Tony

    I feel like you've written about my life exactly, except for the obvious speed/career differences. I have had to wake up early many times to fit adventures in… night running is an adventure in itself. Planning short outings that challenge the mind and body is key. I have also found it is extremely important to not let the adventure go beyond the time-frame set in the original plan. Late arrivals from a fun outing can lead to bitterness on the other end. My wife hates it when I come home hours late and she's been at home dealing with a precocious 4 year old and a "terrible-2" year old all day. Just something to factor into your plans, try not to cross the fine line of overdoing it. Balance is key.

  7. Dean G

    The timing of this (fantastic and thoughtful) piece struck me because the NYTimes on-line has a piece about Kilian Jornet, whose parents took him along on great adventures from when was like 3.

    Which is to say, I suspect what seems like a scary and impossible balancing act now for you know, will likely turn into some of the most exciting and meaningful family times one could ever hope for.

    Thanks for talking about an issue that so many of us face (or will face).

  8. SLC

    Being the mom of a three year old and the one doing the most running – its a different angle, but so far these things have worked for us:

    I dont run on Saturdays – that is dad's day to do with what he chooses – sometimes that means that all three of us are out running/hiking/biking but he gets to choose. That means I have to schedule the other back to back run very very early in the morning or try and get out towards the end of work (I work full time as well)

    Tuesdays are also his day – I pick up the kid and he has the time to run after work.

    All the other running days I work it or try and work it to where its done at work or early in the morning so there's not a lot of disruption.

    On Sundays I go out and do the long run and then fake my way through having energy the rest of the day to take over the kid so dad's given a breather.

    I couldn't have a kid and a husband and train for and run ultras if I didn't have the partner I have – there are days when too much running crosses over into real life and its stressful – but he has allowed me to do the things I do and I've done what I can to make sure its the least disruptive as possible. We take our kid with us to a lot of the races, because I believe through seeing what his parents do, he'll cultivate a love for it as well (or just the outdoors in general). We've got a Kelty, we use a kindershuttle during the winter, we have a Bob and a bike trailer. It's a lot of work and can be a lot of money, but its what my parents did so I'm trying to continue that tradition. As long as there's dirt or a stick he's pretty well occupied and its company for dad when he's waiting around for me to come in…

    Honestly I am pretty sure he would respond to this article differently than me – as he does take the brunt of it, but I would be a far less amiable person if I couldn't get out and run..As for two kids, I have no idea how that's done – I know it is because I see it, but one is a handful.

    Good luck – I'm sure it will all come together!

  9. Jacob Puzey

    Great thoughts, Max!

    I'll echo what has been said about the Wallowas. They are pretty close to home and there are some pretty good hikes that we could do with our families. The boys could hike and we could pack the baby girls in and set up a base camp. Then we can go play in the mountains while the kids and our ever supportive wives play at camp. I've also got a good friend who has a lodge up in the area and we've often spoken of having a running weekend up there some time. July or August would be great. Otherwise there is usually too much snow. Let me know. I'd be happy to join you on any of the other adventures if I can break away from the day job.


  10. ScottD

    Yeah, kid #2 is an eye-opener, eh? I think the compression of free time throws us in a slight panic of lack of adventure, but honestly, it's temporary.

    One thing that has worked well in our household is that I trade adventures with my wife. Now, she is quite opposite from me in adventure tastes – she would much prefer sleeping in, a good book, and a massage to anything involving dirt or sweat. But I've found that if I put as much energy into helping her plan a weekend away with her girlfriends as I do for a trip to Europe for running, the balance at home is great. My youngest just turned two, so we're excited that soon they will both want to tag along for the fun. Until then, we trade off!

    Suffer away!!!


    1. Scottay

      This could almost be my reply too. (including Wife's tastes in adventures) My girls are now 6 and 8, and we still find that "adventure" trading still works in our household. It's amazing how much more free time I have now, compared to when the girls were 1 and 3. It's all about be grateful for what you have, and keeping that balance. Great comments, and a great article.

  11. LjD

    In the last three days we've had our 6yo daughter hiking in Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges. Yesterday she said, "I'm going trail running" and took off on some slickrock stairs. She also was at the finish line of Chuckanut last Saturday.

    My parents took me and my brother on all our outdoor trips starting from toddler age. Family vacations were in the pop-top Westfalia, camp site to camp site, with hiking during the day.

    I think trying to show them how happy the outdoors makes you helps as well. If they see the joy it brings you they start to appreciate it too. Bring them in on the planning too, so it feels like they are part of the adventure, rather than being dragged along. Always nice to let kids choose the "after-adventure" eatery so there is another mental marker in their minds to remember the day.

    But you're right, getting away by yourself still is a necessity :P

  12. Jason C

    Team RWB Trail Running Camp on Veterans Day weekend will have plenty of family fun and adventure. (shameless plug for a worthy cause).


    Looking forward to sharing this weekend with you Max, and anyone else looking for a truely inspirational weekend.

  13. Cory S.

    We recently purchased an older motorhome and have found that to be a great way to get everyone involved in weekend adventures. We have great camping 20-30 minutes outside our door and are able to take off friday afternoon for a long weekend. Our son is a little young yet to run with us, so I may head off for a few hours Saturday morning for a run, come back and sit by the lake to do some fishing with him while my wife takes her run. The motorhome allows us to pack up and be on the road in minimal time and offers some of the creature comforts that everyone enjoys (hot water is a big plus).

  14. Paul

    pick a weekend get away that the whole family can go to, that is in running or biking distance for yourself. FInd a place that has activities to do, maybe something focused on day hikes with the little ones can achieve. Help your wife pack everything. You take off running or biking there, and then your wife drives with all the gear. You get your adventure and everyone spends the weekend together.

  15. Evan

    Great post, Max! My adventuring has been a bit restricted of late due to time and financial constraints- it's hard to justify traveling very far on an Americorps stipend! It definitely makes you more "creative" when figuring out how to enjoy your weekends. Ski touring is a staple, so is creatively linking trails with some off-trail navigation. I'm planning to do a one day climb of Shasta soon too! I have been missing the Southwest a bit lately though… Slickrock calls!

  16. Sophie speidel

    I'm with Shelby. My husband enjoys mountain biking, so when he bikes the Shenandoah Mountain 100, the family will be out there cheering and crewing, just like when I ran my first 100, Massanutten. Actually, our eldest son was 12 when he crewed at MMT, and I am glad he was crashed out in the car when his mom had a meltdown at mile 85 and RTC (Refused To Continue)…but she eventually finished. As for adventures within a day of home, I found a three-day stage run on the AT near our home in VA to be a perfect adventure but very family- friendly.

    The key to all of this? Balance and perspective. Your kids will only be kids once, and the trails will always be there. When you have to make a choice, the choice will be obvious.

    1. Shelby

      "The key to all of this? Balance and perspective. Your kids will only be kids once, and the trails will always be there." Right on. Couldn't have said it better myself.

  17. Anonymous

    First it was the front pack from six weeks old, the next stage was the Kelty backpack. We went everywhere, every day, no matter the weather, for hours at a time. Along with that it was the bike stroller with the dog beside him for long, long road rides. After that, at age 3, my little guy started running alongside my mountain bike on the trails while I tried to keep the dabs to a minimum.

    Then at 7 he begged for a year to run with the fast guys on the trails, After I lost him on a riverside trail when he ran ahead of me, as was his practice, our family joined West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners just for him. Thankfully, trail runners are an incredibly family-friendly group! My bud grew up on the trails sans video games, sans endless t.v., and it has been a blast! Untold benefit here, close to the end of his childhood now, there have been zero attitude problems, he was either happily exploring or asleep from exhaustion!

    Congrats! You have the most amazing adventure ahead of you!

  18. bob pollmann

    We 'Idahoans' 'suffer' because we have a bunch of yahoos in our State legislature with 'R' after their name (which gets them elected).

    Oh, by the way, vacationed in the Wallowas this past summer. It is awesome, but then again, I find most places of a mountainous nature to be pretty cool!

  19. Kurt

    Nice thoughts.

    I have limited my list to one of those adventure aspirations until I knock it out: run the Big Bend Outer Mountain Loop + Emory Peak. In an 'ultra' sense it's not long, right about at 50k naturally with 10,000 feet of gain (not including Emory), but it's the getting there (W Texas is a trip), the remoteness in the park, the ruggedness, the unknown (it could reach 100 degrees in January or snow, and there is never a water source) and not to mention the unique environment out there that makes it so appealing. I'll do it before I move from Austin, so it's looking like next Dec-Feb is my window.

  20. StephenJ

    Get your 3-year-old biking as soon as you can and run when they bike. If you're on mountain trails when he is still learning, take a long piece of webbing with you. Wrap it around the neck on the uphills to help pull him alone, and on the seat post on the downhills to control his speed. Once he gets that down, buy him a 4-stroke Honda CRF-50 with get training wheels and a remote kill switch (my son had one when he was 4), and the two of you can go on a nice 30 run/ride together. Count it as quality one-on-one time with your son, because it is.

    Skiing is the best family activity ever. Today my 10-year-old son skipped ski team to ski Utah powder on his tele gear with me. We did about 1.5 miles and 2,000 vertical feet of in-bounds hiking. I also spent about 2 hours skiing with my 4-year-old daughter on the bunny hill. Someday she'll hike in the snow with us. Riding a ski lift together also provides an opportunity to talk with my kids, that I'm sure will be quite valuable when they are going through the teenage years.

  21. Jim

    Love the DBD! I know many times I forget what's outside my own door for adventure(and it isn't much).

    As for your 3 year old…perhaps a Max King Training/Racing vest. Compartmentalized and detachable of course for those tough uphill miles at the end of a run. Being 3yrs old he can be detached from the vest and with a bungee, pull you up the hill.

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