Aug 15, 2006

The Hike

8/15/2006 — cori

How can you turn a peaceful, serene, undisturbed plot of nature into chaos? Simple…input the my family right into the middle of it. That is what happened to our poor mountain this past Saturday. It experienced us in full.

Since the day was perfect, Chuck had the ingenious idea of going for a little hike after dinner. We were all thrilled with the prospect. We rushed through dinner, got our dirty, grubby clothes on (not because we wanted to look like poor people, but because we didn’t feel like getting our normal clothes dirty), and bounded out of the house in search of a nature adventure. This was going to be good – we could feel it.

However, before any fun hiking could be had, I insisted we fumigate ourselves with an entire can of ‘Bug Be Gone’ – or some such variety. I sprayed hard and long. Anything that had a nose was going to be sure to stay a safe distance away from us! A mother has to do all she can to protect her brood from such evils as ticks, mosquitoes and whatever else that may lurk in the woods and feed upon the blood of unsuspecting hikers. Our fumigation session culminated with me dispensing such wisdom as, “Okay kids, DO NOT lick your face. It has poison on it.” That didn’t sound right, but they believed me and off we set.

Next, we drove down to the ‘starting place’ (if there is such a thing as that) for where we would commence our hike. Oooo this was going to be fun! We were all giddy. Excitement filled the air. There was a small field we had to cross before we got to the foot of the mountain. To my utter joy, this field had recently been mowed. The reason this caused such happiness to befall me was because it brought back such fond memories of childhood that I had to stop and immediately share them with the family. The hike could wait – its memory lane right now.

Okay troops, listen to this story…they all stopped and stared at me, squinting as if the sun were in their eyes. When Mommy was a little girl, my favorite thing to do was to take all these grass clippings and make houses out them (in a blueprint looking form). I thought they would think I was ingenious, brilliant, had come up with the world’s coolest activity. As I’m talking, I’m gathering handfuls of grass clippings and neatly arranging them into the latest housing design that just popped into my head. I’m lost in my own little world reminiscent of decades gone by. When all of the sudden I hear laughter. What, I wonder, could be funny about my design? Then I saw it, they were making a mockery of my grass clippings by gathering handfuls and throwing them at each other….boys. To each his own, I guess. My trip down memory lane was cut short, when we ran out of grass clippings.

So now, here we are at the start of the woods. We walk gingerly along the narrow path. Gavin, the self appointed leader, Bennett, insisting on being second, Chuck behind them and Chloe and I walking hand in hand. Since she is so close to the ground, she notices every single little thing on it and stops every few feet to pick ‘it’ up and show me. I was hoping this would be a discovery adventure for the kids, just not every few feet. When suddenly, we come to a fork in the path and have to make a choice. Do we go up (at an unimaginable – and in my opinion – very unsafe incline) or to we continue on our level course?

The boys outnumber the girls in this family. In other words – risk and excitement normally beat out caution and sensibility. Being that this was a family event and that I wanted to be with my family, I relented and climbed 75 degree angle of a slope set before me. Have I ever mentioned before that I’m deathly afraid of heights? Well, I am!!!

Another plus for us, is that our bug spray is definitely working. All wildlife within a mile radius of us has instantly scattered – that includes other human beings. There was not a one in sight. This concerned me a bit being that I might just be falling down a mountain soon and was hoping someone would be within earshot to hear my piercing screams. Man, why did I put so much bug spray on? At least I didn’t have any gnats blocking my vision as I’m clawing my way up the side of the cliff.

So here we are – on our fun, family outing. Bennett is the leader this time. This is only because he is the one who is most likely to slip and we would rather have him up in front of all of us so that when he does we all tumble down like bowling pins…er, I mean, so if he does, we’re there to catch him and brace his fall. So, guess who Chuck puts behind Bennett – ME! Oh great! Don’t look down, don’t look down, is all I can keep repeating in my head. Then there’s Gavin behind me – louder than all get out. That kid is so LOUD. Between him and the bug spray, I think we’ve scared away even the ants. At the end is Chuck who has my sweet, precious little daughter wrapped like a tortilla around his back. She spends much of the time screaming about the hair that is in her eyes. But Daddy is holding onto her hands for dear life so as to keep her positioned on his back at just the right angle, so my poor dear is unable to brush the stray, ticklely strands of hair out of her line of vision.

Whilst attempting to scale the beginning portions of Mt. Everest, Gavin decides that it would be a good time to tell us about the powers of his latest imaginary super hero he just created – at the top of his lungs. When he gets excited, he talks even louder. I’m thinkin now is not the best time to show me all his creative abilities. Survival is of utmost importance to me right now. I yell at him to “PLEASE be quiet and save your story for later!” yet being ever so careful not to damage or scar him emotionally. I go on to explain that my outburst comes out of self-preservation, not any dislike of his latest superhero.

Bennett turns out to be a phenomenal leader. He takes his Spiderman abilities seriously. He was grabbing every root and rock available and scaling the hill at an amazing speed. He didn’t once slip. And because I was following my fearless leader – neither did I. Once we reached the top and looked down, a wave of nausea hit, my legs turned to jello and I had an overwhelming feeling of free falling. Thankfully, Chuck was hanging on tight to me and reminding me to breathe.

I was SHOCKED! My entire family made it to the top of a mountain. I conquered my fear. We had fun!

On the way back down, I was once again explaining to Gavin why it’s important to not talk so loud in the woods (or anywhere in public for that matter). I told him he needed to be aware of his surroundings, ever on the lookout for ‘things’. That, of course, prompted an obvious question, “What kind of things, Mom?” Oh, just like, BEAR and stuff. I of course am freaking out about the possibility of running into anything living (I am so not the outdoorsy type). I’m looking up in the trees, thru the dense underbrush, and every few seconds I stop and do a 360 scan of my immediate surroundings. You would think I had Special Ops training under my belt. If there was a bear, I would be the first to know. Nothing was going to surprise me on a fun family outing.

Meanwhile, at the same time of having to deal with ‘the loud talker’, Chuck was having to deal with ‘the whacker’. Bennett constantly was picking up sticks, many 3 times his size, and whacking the first tree that was in sight. We obviously have a lot to turn about hiking etiquette. Chloe on the other hand, is ‘miss naturalist’ and not afraid to touch anything. We found her wandering over to a hollowed out tree decaying in the woods and poking her head into it. Great! Chloe, don’t you know the dangers of what could be lurking in a hollow tree? Well, I don’t either, but it can’t be good.

On we trek, the end of our little hike is drawing near. When all of the sudden, my watchful eye spots something. I feel like I have the powers of Gavin’s latest superhero “Eagle Boy”. He has laser vision you know. Well, my vision was ever so keen on this hike. Thankfully, everyone halted in mid-step when I froze like a statue and whisper-yelled, “STOP – LOOK OVER THERE!!” To our joy, we were within only a few feet of a doe. She looked right at us and kept on eating. We watched each other in awe for several minutes and each continued on our way.

Not only did the kids learn not to be loud or whack things or fearlessly put your head in miscellaneous hollow logs on our hike, but we had the joy of teaching them numerous things. We got to touch and see moss growing on the north side of the tree, we learned how to tell which way was North, South, East and West, we learned about conifer trees having needles instead of leaves. Bennett can now spot a Robin and we learned what it’s song sounds like. We listened to the quiet of the woods and felt it’s cool breeze. We learned how to work as a team and do something very hard but very rewarding. That’s my favorite thing about my family…we learn together, we have fun together, we cry together, we laugh together.

Thankfully, we didn’t all see a bear together – then this story might not have ever been written!

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