Monday, September 1, 2008

Endurance: The Interactive Update

After complaining for 2 ½ straight hours that she hadn’t seen any mountains since crossing the state line, Caroline was more than ready for her first hike. We meandered aimlessly around greater Colorado Springs, before stumbling upon Garden of the Gods where we finally stopped.

For the first (long) quarter mile of the otherwise very pleasant walk, the little five-year-old cross we bear provided running commentary on which rocks she would like to climb. I tried to explain to her that no one was allowed to climb the rocks because it was too dangerous.

“Then why is SHE doing it?” Caroline asked, pointing to a woman repelling back down from a 40-foot climb.

“Because SHE brought her equipment, crew, and permit,” I answered, “Did YOU bring a rock-climbing permit?”



“Do you have freckles in any of your armpits?”

We walked on until we came to a massive red rock formation where Caroline marched up to the guard rail and, using circular breathing, explained her deep desire to climb the several-stories-high rock before us with passion and conviction and without stopping. I gently, and with great love and patience, pointed to the sign she couldn’t yet read that clearly stated “No Climbing”, and we all continued along the path.

At least, five of us did. Caroline stopped in her tracks. “Fine. If I can’t climb a REAL mountain on a REAL hike, I’m leaving!”

At this point, we five remaining family members performed a very Brady pivot-turn in the direction of the rebel yell with such perfect synchronicity, there’s no way, even with rehearsals, we could ever repeat it. I swear I heard a family from Utah applaud for us. But Caroline missed the move as she was walking back down the path, I assume to the car where she was going to troll the parking lot looking for the ever-elusive Delaware license plate before putting in a movie and polishing off the rest of the Twizzlers, and was a good 20 yards away. We watched, frozen in disbelief as she kept on walking without looking back. In the 15 seconds or so that none of us spoke or moved while we watched her make her way closer to the parking lot, I deeply regretted the hours we spent on endurance training and longed so badly for the days when I could strap her in a stroller and keep moving. I also regretted heeding the pediatrician’s advice to leave the duct tape and Benadryl at home, lest I get tempted to use it for evil.

With our youngest child now 50 yards away and determined to leave, I finally broke the silence with words I refuse to put in writing. Let’s just say I made the family from Utah very uncomfortable, but in the end Caroline fully understood she was going to finish the hike – and the vacation – with her family who, at best, tolerated her.

And on we marched through the majestic red rocks while “Sweet (Mother of God Where Did This Child Come From?)” Caroline told all within earshot about what a scam hiking in Colorado had turned out to be.

“You can’t even climb any mountains and nobody gets to climb on rocks and there is dirt everywhere and it’s getting my crocs all messy…”

We soon found a trail that headed up rocky terrain, and Caroline, for the first time since viewing the Magpie Exhibit in the visitor’s center, was in her element. All four kids climbed fearlessly and without looking back at their parents, impersonating Bear Grylls all the way to the top but (thankfully) without eating any worms or drinking their own pee along the way.

The next day we made our way to Estes Park where, accommodations aside, we had a fantastic time doing all things Colorado from fishing and horseback riding to an evening with a John Denver impersonator who made my Mom cry when he sang “Annie’s Song”. Okay, he made me cry too.

By the end of our stay Caroline and her entourage had finished two more steep hikes in the Rocky Mountains like pros, both along waterfalls and both more beautiful than words or pictures could describe, so I won’t even try. John Denver nailed it when he sang about “the serenity of the clear blue mountain space” as every step really was filled with wonder, especially with Caroline leading the charge.


la_vie_en_shoes said...

So, DO you have any freckles in your armpits? Freckles or not, Julie, I love your blog. You rock!