One Sunday morning in June, the determined rays of the rising sun made their way through the curtains covering my bedroom window. I knew it was going to be a glorious day. Based upon the steady stream of vehicles making their way towards the beach, others felt the same way. I jumped out of bed, ran down the stairs, made a pot of coffee, and let my thoughts transport me to an ideal spot to enjoy the sun. Unlike the throngs of beach-goers, I wanted to head northwest, towards the cool of the lushly vegetated mountainside. There was an inner drive yearning for a feeling of peace and of burning quads brewing.
As my kids, one by one, made their way to the kitchen for breakfast, I filled them in on my newly devised plan. It went something like this, “Good morning sleepy-heads , ready to head to the mountains for a Sunday hike?!” Their responses were lukewarm initially, most likely due to the road trip required, and the fact that they would not be spending the day lounging with friends. I considered, very briefly, extending the invitation to their peers. Then I thought, torturing my own kids with a character building exercise is sufficient. Besides, the parents of the other children may not appreciate my lack of coddling, and refusal to quit, as the trail quickly gained elevation and became exposed granite along the ridge. Yeah, it would be much better without such added responsibility, and whining.
Throwing some snacks, water, and other hiking essentials in the car, we headed towards New Hampshire’s Mt. Monadnock. Windows down, tunes jamming, kids singing in the back, this trip was unfolding beautifully before my eyes. Without interference, we arrived at our destination. As the kids sprang from their seats onto the dirt, I could sense their ambivalence. So, I sweetened the deal with a trip to the park store, acquiring adequate tempting treats to lure my cubs up the mountain. Swedish fish and peanut butter crackers were my honey.
Fortunately, the trail began modestly. The kids were unable to peer through the densely packed emerald forest to the boulders ahead. If those three sets of eyes spied the challenging route, the treats would have been completely useless, dismissed like six month old Christmas toys. I would have needed to resort to drill sargent tactics, sometimes useful, yet never enjoyable.
Spirits were high, smiles were abundant. Then the climb began. Maddie was the first casualty of the tribe. Yet somehow, her lack of enthusiasm was not contagious to her siblings. Savannah and Brady proudly put one foot in front of the other, gaining confidence and elevation with each step.
Meanwhile, my eldest was waning by the second. Her emotional state was descending faster than a base jumper. I had to note the irony of the situation. Seventeen years ago, I was Maddie. I was Amberella, the poor child forced into the wilderness. I was the child who moaned and groaned as my parents patiently, yet firmly encouraged my struggle up the mountain. Somehow I made it up, and so would she. She would find confidence through accomplishment.
“I am not moving from this spot unless a helicopter comes to save me” she dramatically stated. “Good luck with that princess, your only way down is this path. Let’s go.” After thirty minutes of solid, award-winning groaning, I was over her pity party. She may be stubborn, but it comes honestly. I was willing to ride out her storm. Besides, Brady, age four, was climbing that trail like a native goat. This was a physically reasonable hike for my trio of energetic kids. Mt Monadnock was not going to conquer us.
The afternoon rays penetrated select leaves and bushes, casting flecks of gold all around during our pursuit of the treeline. As the dirt packed path gave way to New Hampshire’s infamous giant granite boulders, we had to work as a team. In order succeed, we needed to employ mental and physical tactics, as well as a pinch of mountain magic to safely arrive at the top. There is certainly a positive relationship with mysticism and altitude. As elevation increases, mountain magic increases. The moments spent under the canopy of limbs and the cerulean sky were unlike those confined by the metal walls of our car.
The trees thinned, and we believed we were approaching the top. We were mistaken. If it weren’t for the red gummy fish, I would have been in a heap of trouble. Spared by the sugary treats, I felt like the Hansel and Gretel witch in her house of confectionery treats. My near mutinous crew took the bait, the summit attempt was saved!
The hike was more than an outing for physical activity. It was a day spent without interruption from technology and the outside world. I wanted my children to feel the sheer unmatched joy of an experience in our natural world, to understand that there is no way to derive a comparable man made experience, ever.
Madison overcame her emotional demons. Brady pushed his four year old body to keep up with those around him. Savannah exuded confidence from the trail head. My belief that the power of each child’s strengths would overshadow any weaknesses was proven correct. I was one proud mama, and my kids knew it.