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Sunday, August 1, 2010

That Fresh Mountain Air

   As the white clouds gather on a Saturday afternoon, my husband decides it's high time our family went on a hike together. He rounds up the kids. "Hey, guys, lets get in the car! We're going hiking!"
   "Why do we have to go on a hike?" whines Ruth as we drag her away from YouTube. Blake glares at her."Hikes are awesome, idiot!" "We goin' on a hike!" chants John, and runs to find his shoes. "Can we go swimming instead?" our Brigham pleads.
   I grab snacks and drinks and backpacks and the baby carrier while my husband encourages everyone to eat something. "We'll be gone for a while!"
   "What!!! I want to hang out with my friends tonight!" Rachel whines. "I wanna sammich!" yells John, dragging a kitchen chair up to the counter. "I'm not hungry," grumbles Ruth. I decide to nurse the baby.
   We finally assemble in the car and pull out. It's a 45 minute drive up the canyon to the trailhead. Ten minutes into the drive a cry issues from the back seat. "I need to use the bathroom!" I knew I forgot something! We need gas too, so we stop for both. I steer my two big boys through the maze of treats and snacks and drinks to the bathroom at the back of the store. Brigham is curious about everything in the back room, jumping when the drink carbonator hisses suddenly. Blake stares mournfully at all the sodas stacked by the bathroom door. "You're torturing me, mom!"
   Back on the road, everyone starts to grumble. "I'm hungry!" "I'm starving!" "Did we bring anything to eat?"
I fish in the backpacks for our trail snacks and soon everyone is happily munching. The John shares his chips with the baby. Luckily I notice.
   John starts to get antsy wondering when we'll get there. Joe points out a waterfall. "Look, John. We go to the waterfall, then the tunnel, then the windy road. Waterfall, tunnel, windy road! Waterfall, tunnel, windy road!" John giggles. "What's next, John" "Tunno!" is the triumphant response. He plays Dora for the rest of the ride.
   At the trailhead I have to double back to the car to get wipes. "This'll take forEVer!" huffs Ruth. The cloudcover keeps things cool, but the first quarter of the trail is all uphill. I find that I'm still pretty out of shape. While the boys eagerly look for odd fungus, Ruth gets a stick and smacks everything she can to show how dumb this expedition is. Blake tries to help a leaning tree fall down and John nearly falls off the trail as he looks everywhere but in front of him. His running commentary doesn't stop as I take his hand, but he pulls away. "I pwomise to not fall off the twail. I pwomise to walk back and foth." That's what I'm afraid of.
   We pass an older couple who smile fondly on our entourage. They comment to me, "That's just how it was with us--six little kids! You'll make it!" Later I'll appreciate the sentiment, but at the moment I'm too emotionally overwhelmed to really believe it.
   John is taking forever so I take the baby in the backpack and my husband hoists our little boy on his shoulders. I begin to wonder just how long this hike is. I sigh, and as I do I take in a deep breath of the fresh pine air, mingled with floral and green. Well, it's a really nice hike anyway.
   "This is the stupidest hike ever!" from Ruth. "I think it's cool," chimes Blake.
   By the time I realize it is four miles round trip, we are up in the aspens and the trail has leveled out somewhat. The bigger kids have decided to just hike as fast as they can, but the baby has decided he is hungry. Blake starts feeding him goldfish crackers, which help some, but as we reach the high mountain meadow, the baby is wailing nonstop.
   Now I am officially not having fun. I have to stop and nurse the baby while the rest of the family keeps hiking. As hiker after hiker passes me, startling to see a lady sitting in the bushes, or asking if I am alright, I am grateful that the baby is wide awake and will finish nursing quickly. I finally ask some returning hikers how much farther it is to the waterfall. "You're almost there!" is their cheerful reply.
   I hike the rest of the way alone, passing no one. The baby gets a little bored and starts to pull my hair. I feed him more goldfish crackers over my shoulder. Finally I hear water, then I can see the waterfall, but it takes a full 15 minutes more to get to it. My kids are glad to see me. My pack has the water.
   We enjoy the cool mist coming off the 200 foot high waterfall and throw rocks in the water. Rachel sketches the falls and Blake finds the most dangerous way up the cliff by the water. Even Ruth has decided it's ok. "But it wasn't worth it," she mumbles.
   Suddenly John looks uncomfortable and gives me a panicked look. I take him down the trail, looking for a secluded place to do his business. Thick bushes come right up to the trail and time is running out. I finally just look to see no one is coming and let him go off the side of the trail. I hope this isn't illegal or something! Just as he is finishing, a whole troup of young single adults marches up the trail. The first two stop in concern. "Are you ok?" I open my mouth to explain, struggling to get John's pants back up, but they see enough to clue in. "Oh! Keep going!" they call, and six or eight more push by.
    We're finally ready to head back. "It'll take forEVer!" wails Ruth. I tell her we'll just go fast. I forgot it was all downhill for the last 15 minutes to the waterfall, so now it's all uphill and I have the baby in the backpack again. Boy am I out of shape!
   Blake stays back and encourages me while Rachel walks in front and plays peek-a-boo with the baby. I'm hungry and grumpy and do not want to walk uphill anymore. "I would've stunk as a pioneer," I huff. "Yeah, but they were used to this kind of stuff," Blake remarks. "This is a really long hike." "Yeah, but it's so nice," Blake says. I smile.
   I look around. We have reached the top of the hill and the view opens up to the valley below. The trees are swaying gently and the grass is green. Cabin rooftops peek out here and there and craggy rocks break from the pines near the top of the mountains. Wildflowers cover the meadow and aspens shiver in the breeze. The air smells cool and earthy.
   Rachel stops to admire the view too. "Why didn't I see this on the way up?" Yeah, why didn't I? "I guess that's why you have to go there and back again, so you get a second chance to see it all," I offer. We enjoy the view, then start off again, gaining momentum on the almost level path. I find myself almost cheerful as I realize it's all downhill from here.

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