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Hiking with Children

It’s what we do when most of our brain cells have bailed or when we wish to suck in our breath 25 separate times in the same hour and tease our blood pressure–we hike with children.  We pick a steep slope like Mt. Peak, noticing as we park that no one else has children in tow.  And that no one else has driven their mini van with crumbs and car seats.  No, no, these people’ve come with ski poles. For hiking.  A red flag if there ever was one.  They glance at their watches before taking the first step and then they disappear into the foliage. 

Which is why I get serious and toss in a few more peanuts and pretzels.  Snacks speak around here.  And they may be the sole reason we get a pair of three year old legs up and down this peak.  I love my little guy, but I don’t intend to carry him.  Not a single step.

But I’ve underestimated him. The little boy in red shorts darts up the mountain.  He grabs a flimsy stick and starts poking ferns and trees.  Then before we’ve hiked four minutes, he’s poked his sister for the third time and we’ve taken the stick away.  Only he’s still happy, and he calls from behind, “you coming, mommy?”  And I am, only I cannot sprint and stop, sprint and stop like he is doing.  Something in me would collapse.

We are twenty some minutes in when we sit in a pile of pitch to take this picture.  Brain cells?  Right.  We’re down a few more.  But since no one’s severely complaining or has slipped completely over an edge, or even asked for water, we figure we can last a few more minutes in the upward direction. 

And then we’ve done it.  Fifty-one minutes from our van we’ve come out of the trees at the top of the peak. And we’re looking back in the direction we came and we’re hoisting our kids up so they can see.  Only there’s really nothing to see but clouds and more trees.  But that doesn’t stop us from being thrilled or from swatting the mosquitos on my arms.  We’re at the top.  With our children.  Who, minus the times we dragged them over rocks and put them back on their feet after a stumble, have walked, hopped and run every step on their own.

But not only are we at the top, we are only at the top.  Which suddenly makes the snack bag ultra-important.   For the next forty minutes we will peanut and pretzel two children down the slope, sometimes one inch at a time.  And still, a quarter mile from the van our three year old will expire.  He’ll want to be carried; he’ll want his binky; he’ll want to crumple right there on the trail.  And my husband and I will share a glance that says, “I’m not carrying him.”  And we’ll continue to coax him to the bottom, one pretzel after another.

And then we’re there.  We can see our van through the last of the trees–the only van.  And we sigh, mostly with gratitude, as no three year olds or six year olds were scathed or scarred.  And more remarkably no parents passed out or pulled a muscle. 

High fives all around.  They actually mean something this time!


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