Is this all you've got? Piece of cake!
The plan was to do a 5 mile, not too strenuous hike to the lake, stay two nights and come home. So Audrey and I made plans to see a movie, maybe go out to lunch, or pretty much anything we wanted. She gets eaten my mosquitoes and hiking has been rough on her. Plus she had a job dog sitting so we were quite comfortable staying home. We did get to see a movie. And go out to lunch. Get a couple Scrabble games in and enjoy all the peace and quiet we wanted.
Then Friday Shane was able to get a call in and said they were contemplating coming home that day. And then later, could I call in some pizzas to pick up as they were 20 min out and very hungry. They finally arrived home around 8pm. I opened the door and in fell a raggle-taggle group of limping, dirty, exhausted kids. Shane and grandpa were starting to seize up a little from the long drive home and were afraid to sit down to eat for fear of not being able to get up again. Once the kids started eating the stories came pouring out and they were all talking as fast as they were eating. Then we showered them all down, put on a movie for them to pass out to and Shane gave me the details of their trip.
Apparently, the not-too-strenuous part of the description was also not-too-accurate. There was quite a bit of elevation to deal with and pretty soon Shane was carrying his enormous pack, plus Pippin's and the cousin's. Pippin was not quite the silent soldier and whined at every step- I probably would have too. Kateri was a trooper and carried her pack all the way in, and out. Which does not really surprise me. Cyril did too, along with a big blue sled they found up in the snow which they were able to make use of at camp, but only made hiking up the brush more difficult on the way out. But he was pleased to show off his nice sled when he got home and can't wait for the first snowfall.
The camping spot was beautiful, and isolated. The kids could explore the hillsides, try to catch fish, fall in the lake, or slide down the snow as they wanted. Unfortunately, it was in a no-fire area, so if you did get wet you mostly stayed wet. But the sun did come for a while to dry things a little. Which was good because they also had a nice big storm too. Just as Shane was making some potato soup for the hungry campers the wind picked up. He could see the rain coming so quickly stashed the camp stove, soup and all, under an overhanging rock, along with some shoes he had the presence of mind to grab, and they all stuffed into the tent. The thunder was amazing and with each clap, the kids would fall face down on the ground in silence. Shane said that was the good part. But in between, they loudly discussed the chances of being struck by lightening and what would happen if you did. Cyril was a little distressed and was cuddled in his sleeping bag, so to cheer him up and show him things were fine, Az picked up a metal cook pan and held it over his head. Just as a lightening bolt struck just outside the tent with the thunder right on top of it. Az quickly joined Cyril and they huddled together on the ground.
The storm raged for an hour or so. Being confined with the four hungry, scared kids, Shane was very tempted to face the storm un-protected instead. And maybe hold up a pan or two himself. When the rain finally reached a lull they all ran and took shelter under the branches of a large tree. On the way Shane grabbed the soup pot and some dishes and they stood there huddled under the tree eating. When they were home and going over the menu, they all picked the potato soup as the tastiest meal. I wonder how much the emotional and electric charges added to the flavor. Shane said it really was quite tasty.
Although the storm was gone before bedtime, it was night was still not without its own trials. Of course that is when bear fears and I-want-to-go-home feelings start to come out. In the middle of the night Grandpa was dealing with Az who wanted to pack up and head for home right then. Grandpa, in his most comforting way bluntly told him,
"Yeah, that's not going to happen."
Shane got his own scare when he was woken up to some watery sound just outside his tent wall. It was just Kateri going to the bathroom. She had not wanted to go far from the tent so just stepped out and went right there, which was pretty much on Shane's head. I was impressed she did what she needed to do on her own. I would have woken Shane up and asked him to go with me.
The water was quite cold, see the snow on the hill?
I think bear stories at night, Grandpa, might not be the best way to prepare for a good sleep.
Then told me my favorite part of the story. He recounted how at every meal, he never got to eat when it was hot. How he and grandpa had to make three different entrees each meal to feed everyone. How he could never enjoy a bite or sip without someone expressing a need for something and once the kids were sated they were agitating to go off on an adventure, without any consideration as to whether he and Grandpa were ready or had gotten enough, or any for that matter. Or if he tried to make something later for himself someone would sniff and ask,
"Do I smell chocolate? I think I smell hot chocolate!"
Once, Shane just said,
"Yes. You do." but did not offer to put his cup down and immediately make four more cups while his got cold as was the usual routine. Once in desperation and wanting a few seconds without demands he took his coffee and went up on the hill to sit and take in the view. After getting settled in a nice spot it only took a second for the frantic calls of ,
"Papa! Papa! What are you doing?" to start and shatter the quiet. I don't know what he thought would happen. Sitting down to relax in peace will bring on a smattering of emergencies, needs, and screams. Anytime. Anywhere. Mountains are no exception.
He matter of factly answered " I am enjoying my hot drink in peace and I am not coming down for 20 minutes."
I just laughed as he expressed his dis-belief and amazement of the constant care-taking they demanded. I don't know what he was expecting, taking four kids camping. But I expressed some sympathy and empathy and said I knew just what he was talking about. That I was shocked after 14 years of doing this it would ever be a surprise. But mostly I laughed and took delight in having him understand why I feel so exhausted some days.
On the way down the mountain, things were a little better. Az, carried his pack the whole way. Kateri and Cyril were still committed to making it with their packs on, and it was downhill. Shane would keep spirits up with sounding off games and inspirational rounds of "Hoo Rah!" But at last they saw the end of the trail and Shane's truck. Then some mustered up enough reserves to start running. Some started crying. And after taking his shoes off, Cyril realized his feet were hurting so badly because he had blisters on the bottoms of his toes. He knew your feet get sore when you hike so had not brought it up to Shane the whole time. Apparently his feet have grown since his last hike. Which was not that long ago. I felt very sad for Cyril. And impressed. This from a boy who cried at the sight of a dog for quite some years.
Shane said he knew, before hand, that hiking would not be for his exclusive enjoyment. That it was for the kids and he relished the experiences of them becoming more confident and testing their own endurance. Just like he did with his dad. And he realized how special it was that Grandpa was there with them to witness and pass on his wisdom and expertise. And despite the tears, fears, and pain, it was all worth it for the memories, the shared stories, and the growing opportunities.
One of my favorite pictures. Shane has a similar one where he is the little boy.
When Cyril asks how Shane can say something definitively like why this will work, or not work, Shane tells him because he can play the experience card. He's done it. Grandpa has collected lots of experience cards. And now, having done some hard things, felt some pain, kept going, and reached the top the kids are building up their decks of experience cards which they can play. Which is what parenting is all about.