A difference between backpacking with and without little ones

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Two weeks ago, I backpacked with my three-year-old for the first time. It was exhuberant and exhausting. This weekend, I backpacked with friends. It was amazing in that we got along well and hiked more than twice as far - and many multiples greater elevation (yesterday, we hiked from Cade’s Cove to Spence Field/Rocky Top/Thunderhead, and camped at the Spence Field shelter; with my little one, we hiked from Abrams Ranger Station to Backcountry Site #17, Little bottoms). The trips were similar in many ways; both became cold, and both were basically amazingly fun. But, when I returned home from this trip, I noticed feeling like something was different. This weekend’s trip was more physically, but less mentally challenging than the trip with a little; it felt like the slightest bit of something was missing. That’s my punchline for this post - backpacking and doing things with one’s children is amazing and fulfilling to me in a way that the kinds of trips I would previously seek out were.