Sunday, September 25, 2016

Conquering the Mountain


So who thinks it's a good idea to bring a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost-two-year-old hiking up a mountain? Anyone? Bueller? Okay, just A. then!

For a couple of weeks, Charlie and Cubby had expressed a desire to climb an Adirondack mountain. Well. Is A. the man to deny his children the attaintment of their desires? Of course not! Okay, guys, let's climb a mountain!


At the first bridge, just after we got on the trail. Notice everyone is still smiling and on their own feet (except Jack, of course, because even A. is not that optimistic).

The mountain A. chose is close to our house, but it is not an easy hike. It's seven miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 1,900 feet. As we were driving to the trailhead this morning, the mountain loomed up in the distance, still wreathed in low clouds and not looking at all like a sensible thing for a family of five with three children under seven to be climbing. 

Still, we thought we'd just go as far as we could and turn around if we needed to.

At least, I actually thought that. You'd think after being married to Mr. Relentless for thirteen years, I would know better.

The children were in high spirits as we started our ascent. They noticed trees pecked intensely by woodpeckers, the paper birch peeling layers, and an excellent spot for shelter should the cloudless blue sky open up with a rainshower.


Always know where possible shelters are, say Mountain Man Cubby and Mountain Man Charlie.

We climbed and climbed, passed now and then by various serious other hikers equipped with climbing poles and expensive footwear. 

We did not see any other children. This was not surprising, because this hike was kind of intense. The kids expressed some discontent about 3/4 of the way up, and Jack was looking pretty cold at this stage. We had continued to gain elevation, and it couldn't have been more than 35 degrees at that point. Jack in the pack wasn't generating his own heat like the rest of us toiling up the mountain, so I took off my flannel shirt and put it on Jack. This left me in a flimsy short-sleeved t-shirt in the bracing air.

It was cold. I was tired. The kids were tired. We had been hiking steadily up for two-and-a-half hours and I knew we still had to get back down. Maybe we should turn back, I suggested to Mr. Relentless.

Of course not, said Mr. Relentless. Onward!

Ugh.

The last quarter mile of the ascent was a chute of huge boulders with a small stream running down the middle.


Like this, for a long way.

We kept going, promising the kids we were almost there. No really, we're almost there. Now we really mean it, we're almost there, kids! 

Charlie told me at this point that he never wanted to climb this mountain again. Maybe another mountain, he said, but definitely not this one. Point taken, Charlie.

And then, suddenly, we were there.


I like how this photo makes it look as if I carried Jack the whole way on my hip, like some kind of pioneer woman.

Charlie was there, too, though he was too busy eating his PB&J and the trail mix with chocolate chips to appear for that photo. I got a picture of him a minute later, though, when he went to the first landing of a huge firetower at the summit.


Still smiling. Brave Charlie.

A. and Cubby were the only members of the family who made it to the top of the firetower. A. said the views were incredible. I had to take his word for it, because Jack was looking very tired and cold and we still had to go all the way back down.

And so the grueling march began. Jack warmed up quickly after being swaddled in A.'s sweatshirt and eventually even fell asleep in the pack for about twenty minutes. The rest of us could only envy him his ease and comfort as we scrambled down wet boulders and trudged on and on. In the very last mile, Charlie fell on his face in a bunch of rocks. 

You might say he was a just a little tired. I mean, his legs are only about a quarter the length of mine, and I was incredibly tired myself.  

A. had been anticipating this very moment, so he hauled Charlie up onto his shoulders and double-packed the two youngest most of the rest of the way.


Same bridge, 5.5 hours, 7 miles, and some tears later.

Charlie finished the last stretch on his own tiny legs, making him almost assuredly the youngest hiker ever to complete this trek.


This happened about five minutes into the drive home, halfway through his trail mix refueling.

Honorable mention must also go to good old dog Mia, who is probably too old and arthritic to do strenuous hikes this anymore. Of course, she hasn't moved since we got home except to eat her dinner. A. and I have tried not to move if we can help it either, because holy shit, we are tired. And sore. And will be more sore tomorrow, without doubt.

Meanwhile, Jack was fresh as a daisy after his comfortable trip up the mountain, and the older two were chasing each other around and screaming before dinner as if they hadn't hiked seven miles today.

I suspect we'll all sleep well tonight, though. And I, at least, will not be climbing any more mountains in the near future.

Ow.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Where the Blacktop Ends


After-dinner walks on the Canadian border look like this.


Robert Frost would dig this. The woods are indeed lovely, dark, and deep. And soon to fill with snow.

This particular road looks like this on either side for about five miles. 


Hello, bear? Are you there?*

This is why we bring our bear sensor (and bobcat, and coyote, and fox, and whatever else might be lurking in these woods).


Good dog, Mia.

We almost always hear a couple of barred owls nearby when we're on this road just before dusk. 


Here Jack is trying to repeat their call, which is pretty hilarious but doesn't really translate to a photo.

Eventually, everyone always finds a stick.


Of course.

And the peaceful walk degenerates into an attack on some defenseless vegetation.


My only request is that they each find their own patch to mutilate, so they don't accidentally/on purpose whack each other.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again: I can't imagine trying to live with these boys in a city. I guess our family was meant for life on the Canadian border.

* Not that a bear would get within ten miles of my shrieking hooligans. If noise is an effective bear deterrent, we will never see one.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life With Boys

After dinner this evening, Cubby spent several minutes detailing the rules of Rabbit and Turtle Tag. That was apparently the game of the day in his gym class today. Charlie was all for playing, but Cubby said they couldn't because there weren't enough players.

After a moment of thought, Cubby instead offered, "Hey, Charlie. Let's play ram into each other."

"Okay!" Charlie agreed with enthusiasm.

So they did. And so did Jack.

The end.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why Not?


I came across a couple of photos as I was scrolling through some old ones, and I decided they should be here. Because I can, that's why.

First, here's a photo of the downstairs play room that the children never actually play in because they'd rather be upstairs racing around and screaming in the same room as me. Also, please note the steep, uncarpeted stairs that miraculously no one has hurt themselves on yet. Seriously bad.


Oh, and Charlie. Striking a very typically Charlie pose.

And here we have a much more cheery photo of Charlie, in which he is actually smiling. I think this may be only the third photo ever taken of him with a smile on his face.


Probably because it was Cubby's first day of school and he knew that soon he would have no competition for the coveted green ambulance toy.

That's all. Have a nice day.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Moment of Calm

Sometimes, A. is gone (on a solo exploration of the woods) . . .

 . . .and Cubby and Charlie are downstairs playing elaborate games with play cars . . .

 . . . and Jack is running laps around the living room with my library card . . .

 . . . and everyone is entertaining themselves without me.

We take these moments of grace as they come. They are fleeting, but appreciated.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Daunting Calculation


This morning as Charlie was helping me hang clothes on our new clothesline, he noted that there were a lot of socks to hang up. I explained that there are five people in our family, each with two feet, which means that in one day, if it's cold enough that we're all wearing socks, we use ten socks. And in one week, which is seven days, our family would use 70 socks.

Wow, he said. That's a lot of socks, he said.

Indeed. No wonder it feels as if the laundry is never-ending.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Happy Times Are Here Again

Perhaps there are some people who don't feel a great sense of contentment and happiness from the sight of clothes drying on a clothesline. I am not one of those people. And our dryer is currently out of commission.

So A. put up a clothesline for me yesterday, and I now feel as if a clothesline-shaped hole in me has been filled.


Charlie likes it, too, though his clothesline happiness is likely to result in clean clothes being ripped off their pegs. Oh well. At least we're all enjoying it.