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A Walk in the Park

We mapped out a relatively softball route, just enough to give the girls a taste of backcountry camping and break up an otherwise comfy week of Glacier park lodges. Of course, if it had been just us men, we would have pounded out 20 miles a day, bagging summits along the way and taking a few minutes each evening to kill something for dinner (an elk for me, some feral tofu for Jim the vegetarian). But six miles seemed enough of a challenge for the bicycle-spoke legs of our trail mates -- four miles along the southern edge of Two Medicine Lake, then a gentle two-mile climb to a campsite on the shore of Upper Two Medicine Lake. It's a spectacular setting, where the turquoise water of the mountain lakes are rimmed with tall evergreens and watched over by the high molars of the surrounding peaks.

It was cap-snatching windy at the trail head -- a parking lot at the lower end of the lake -- but as soon as we got in the woods the air settled and the temperature climbed a degree. That was the first of 136 subtle temperature changes we would experience. They were nothing a normal human would even notice, but to little girls, each one was akin to the difference between cremation and cryogenics.

On a father-daughter backpacking trip in Montana's Glacier National Park, the author communed with nature, his child (left) and her friend. (Jim Sebastian)

_____A Walk in the Park_____
Backpacking With Children
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"I'm hot," said Dillon after a minute. Less than a minute, actually. More like seconds.

Fair enough. We stopped and Dillon unshouldered her small red backpack, took off her fleece, folded it and stuffed it carefully into her pack. Isabel watched with interest. We all watched. We watched and watched. And then off we went.

"Found a peanut! Found a pea . . . "

"I'm hot too," said Isabel, 40 seconds later. We stopped again. Her backpack was green. Watch, watch, watch.

A few minutes down the trail, a sparse clearing opened onto the wind-whipped lake. I felt a soft warning breeze and tried to speed past the narrow opening ("foundapeanutfoundapeanut"). But not fast enough.

"I'm cold," they beseeched in unison, planting their little feet.

I tried to suggest that with the sun climbing and some harder hiking ahead that they just push through this cool patch and see whether . . .

They both looked remarkably like their mothers at that moment. Someday, the Human Genome Project is going to trace the gene for the "would-you-finish-yammering-so-we-can-get-on-with-doing-what-we-need-to-do?" facial expression right to the X chromosome.

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