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!
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.