Marketa Daley is an adventure seeking mom to her 3 young children living in California. Her and her husband take their children on long adventures, seeking to live purposeful lives. More photos and stories can be found on their families instagram: @daleywalk.
Becoming a parent rocked my world. My husband David and I are adventurous souls and since babies don’t typically spark images of dirt, unwashed hair, and smelly clothes, when my husband and I found out we were pregnant, my first thoughts were “can we thru-hike with a baby?” David and I had met in the mountains of Northern California, building trails, living in tents, and swinging tools all day with a crew as part of the Backcountry Trails Program for the California Conservation Corps. We fell in love throughout our 6 month work stint, and when the program ended, we stayed together, planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as part of our next great adventure. I had hiked the 2,600 mile long trail from Mexico to Canada in 2012 and knew I wanted to share such a powerful experience with David.
Becoming a mom in 2017 made me look at my life, think deeply about my actions, and get reacquainted with the spirited child living within me. There’s such a huge shift in awareness that comes with becoming a parent and as we welcomed our now 5.5 year old Sequoia into the world, my perception of the entire world changed. Right away, I noticed how often I took our baby outside. I wasn’t sure if a 6 month long hike was possible with her but it felt good to be in nature. I wanted her to feel the warmth of the sun, feel the wet grass between her fingers, hear the birds sing, and feel the breeze cool her skin off. I found myself going on endless walks with her, comforted by her little body pressed up against me in a wrap carrier. I’d watch her eyes look up at the sky, her eyes squint in the sun, and her head turn as her ears picked up different sounds. I dreamed and envisioned of what I wanted our life to look like. I envisioned her running barefoot through the forest, chasing me and my husband down a trail. I’d think about her taking naps outside in the summer, underneath the shade of a tree. It was almost like a primal instinct that told me to take my baby outdoors, let her take naps on the uneven ground, and run around barefoot.
As sequoia grew older, our walks grew longer and longer. These walks helped mend the tumulus transition into parenthood, they helped show me what is essential in life, and created space for deep thinking. Soon our walks turned to hikes as my confidence grew in my ability to adventure with our daughter. My husband and I began dreaming of longer adventures. The possibility of backpacking and thru-hiking with toddlers and young children suddenly felt within reach and more real. After dreaming up many adventures, we finally committed to taking 15 month old Sequoia on the Tahoe Rim and John Muir Trails in the summer of 2018. I carried our daughter over 300 miles that summer on remote mountain trails, even summiting Mt. Whitney with her. My husband and I thought our adventurous days were on hold, but there we were, feeling alive and inspired alongside our wild toddler.
A couple months later, unexpectedly, we adopted the most adorable baby boy (Joshua). Although this stirred up feelings of being unsure if our adventures could continue, we felt honored to be able to welcome him into our home and family. Endless walks, day hikes, and camping trips proved that two isn’t too much, and the following year we found ourselves driving 700 miles north to hike the 40 mile Timberline Trail. Although short, the trail isn’t easy and since we were carrying both kids with my husband (Sequoia on my back in a backpack carrier and Joshua with my husband in a front carrier), it was the most weight I had ever carried. The challenges were plenty and trail teachings great. We gained experience in keeping ourselves and our children dry in wet weather, we unlocked a new level of strength within ourselves, and dealt with formula feeding Joshua (which makes feeding our children food on trail a piece of cake in comparison). The sleepless nights, the weight, the crying toddlers are all things that happened. They exist in my head as facts; things that I can recall and think about. However, I can still feel the tears welling up in my eyes as we walked on a ridge, and after hours of hiking in the cold fog, emerged into the sun with humbling views of Mt. Hood. I can feel the smile on my face as I watch Sequoia run down the trail with her little feet. I still remember the immense love I feel for my husband as I watch him swinging Joshua upside down while weighed down by his enormous backpack, and hearing the cutest baby laugh. I remember how alive I felt, how incredible it felt to be out there as a family, and how important it felt to live our days with total intention.
We decided to grow our family, have another baby, and on June 8, 2020, we welcomed Stanislav (Standa) into our family. He was born into the Covid pandemic, and our family felt torn and confused. We weren’t sure how to navigate through the pandemic with our love and passion for trails and adventure. After a year of making the most of it, David and I had an epiphany on one of our hikes - we would hike the Pacific Crest Trail with all of our children in 2022. We would begin on March 16th and we wouldn’t have any expectations. It was to be the ultimate adventure.
We knew we needed the best and lightest gear, and one of the most important finds for us were Bedrock Sandals. We had been hiking in sandals for many years but always had to carry backup shoes on our long adventures, as the quality of our previous sandals wasn’t great. Finally, here was a sandal that we felt comfortable using without a backup, that was strong enough to withstand the rocky trail, hundreds of water crossings, 1,000’s of miles, and was more comfortable than any other shoe or sandal we had ever worn. Apart from backup shoes, we cut out many unnecessary items from our gear list in order to fit all of our stuff into our packs. We hiked slowly (averaging 10 miles per day), and made our way north with our children. Sequoia and Joshua eventually got trail legs, and we were able to complete 1,300 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail with them. We spent 5.5 months together as a family, deepening our appreciation and closeness for nature, and learning how to be better people and parents in this crazy day and age.
The incredible lessons that the trail teaches us, the time together as a family, and the close relationship to nature are truly just some of the highlights from our treks. The hundreds of miles we’ve hiked alongside our toddlers have given us glimpses of what it truly means to have patience. The extreme heat, wind gusts that knocked us down, the cold mornings that chilled us to the bone, and the rains that made us appreciate the luxury of sitting on a dry rock, have been our humble teachers. Keeping our children close to nature has become our priority over the years. From the Bedrock Sandals we now wear on all our adventures to the minimalistic gear we carry, keeping things simple takes away so many of the difficulties that come with the often overwhelming prospect of raising the next generation of humans.