Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Everyone should take their kids to climb mountains

Engineer Mountain, 12,968 ft.
Or so Justin said after out latest adventure. Last weekend we decided to take the kids on their first backpacking One of the things we love about Durango is that you can plan and execute trips like this in no more than a couple of days ahead of time and the car ride to the trailhead is less than 30 min away. It's easy to get away and get away is what we do here.

Aeneas and Patrick on their first backpacking trip with packs.
Our great friend Kip, who's kids have grown and moved away, gave us a little external pack for the boys to use when they were ready. He too took his kids when they were young and has shown us on many a day hikes, all the sweet spots for fossil finding, wildflower viewing and critter catching in the creeks, valleys and meadows around LaPlata county.

We made even the little guy carry his own stuff although I think he learned a lesson of necessity after carrying in his pack of matchbox cars, tennis balls and bug guides as well as our cups and some of the dishes became heavier than it seemed at home before we left. Patrick was loaded and actually volunteered to carry his own sleeping bag along with his own dishes and toothbrush even though he needed another couple of inches to cinch on his waist strap. The hike was an easy 1-2 mile climb into a meadow choked with Colorado wildflowers. We spent the night surviving an enormous thunder storm and got up early the next morning to get Justin and Patrick off for the Engineer Mountain summit.

Oatmeal before the hike.
Patrick hiked without complaint, even over the scrabble loose rock exposed section that Engineer is known for. And past more and more hikers who just didn't have the drive to reach the top. He was never afraid of the heights and felt more and more determined and accomplished with each step.

Hiking the knife edge.
Patrick and Daddy at the summit.
He did it!
We spent the first part of this summer exploring the areas in southern Utah, Zion, Capital Reef, Arches, Goblin and ending at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As a sort of incentive (outside of the gummy bears that we never leave home without) we had Patrick begin a hiking log.  It takes a few hikes to start to get our hiking legs on after the winter skiing legs, which is painful, but worth it. We told them both that once they were 5, they should be able to hike their age in miles. Honestly, I had my doubts. However, they both accomplished it this summer. The crowning achievement of the desert tour for Patrick was Angel's Landing
Approach to Angel's Landing, Zion NP, Utah
Justin and he got up early, ate breakfast on the shuttle to the trailhead and made it to the top and back within 3 hours. They passed almost no one on the way up and were the first to summit that morning. On the way back, they passed a good number of both kids and adults, even college aged kids, who were too afraid to go any further.
The approach where many turn back with palms too sweaty to grip the chain.

Angel's Landing summit.
Patrick needed no encouragement about how great a job he did from us, rather he heard it from every hiker he saw on his way down through the questions like, "How old are you?" "Did you get to the top?" "Are you serious?!?"

This summer alone he has hiked over 37 miles and summited two remarkable climbs. Justin said it on the way out of Engineer. "Everyone should take their kids to climb mountains. It does something to them. For their confidence, self esteem, drive, commitment. It changes them." These are the seeds that we hope will bring both our boys into adulthood with the confidence and determination to accomplish great things, despite the people around them having doubt. Kids are capable of much more than we give them credit for. I know. I've seen it with my own two eyes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dear Memaw:

I can't believe it has been a month already since you left us! And I can't tell you how many times I have caught myself since then heading to my phone to call you or looking at post cards on our travels thinking of sending you one since then. It's harder than I thought not having you here to talk to and although I always thought I was somehow blessing you with my correspondence, I never dreamed of the joy sharing our lives with you meant to me! Even though you are gone from us here now, I can't help but think that you are where you can see and hear and experience our lives continuing in a clearer and more intimate way than you did even when you were here with us yet so many miles away. 

I've been thinking so hard to bring up all the memories I have of you. Of us growing up and all the fun we had as grandkids. Those memories are so special and bringing them back is filling in the gap I have remaining since your death. One that I remember so fondly, which I have continued with the boys and I regret never having shared with you was the adventured of the little man on our faces. When Shannon and I were really little, we were always the first awake. And like most little children, we found it fun and exciting to crawl into bed with you and Pepaw and snuggle. In trying to give Pepaw a few more minutes of rest before a crazy day with all of us, you would whisper to us and tell us stories about a little man who lived in the forest of our hair and would venture out of his home to see what he could find. With your finger, you would trace his travels down the switchbacks of our forehead, over to look into the beautiful green lakes of our eyes (I guess Shannon's were mud puddles but still just as beautiful to Memaw!), to the creepy caves of our noses and the strange caverns of our mouths, across the meadows of our rosy cheeks and back up to the lookout a top the points of our noses. And growing tired, the little man would climb and climb back up the switchbacks to his little cabin in the forest and fall asleep full of adventures and beautiful scenery. I have started this tradition with the boys and they love it. They come in sneaking and quiet in the mornings sometimes and ask for the adventures of the little man like Memaw used to do.

Although I never did this with you, I remember Shannon telling me about how you would let her make what she called "mixtures" in the kitchen. You would give her a bowl and let her go through the cubbords, adding what ever she liked to the bowl to her hearts content. Patrick and Aeneas love to make a Memaw mixture!

I remember you playing relentless games of croquet in the front yard, getting close to our balls and teaching us to put our foot on one and send the opponent down the hill and out of the way of the gates. And you getting out the rakes in the fall and helping us to make elaborate labyrinths to hit our croquet balls through. Even now, I find myself making paths for any number of reasons and the boys are doing the same without even a prompt from me. It's like the sense of adventure and secret passages and imagination got passed right along to the next generations.

Since we lived too far south to get any snow, you and Pepaw went outside during one of Atlanta's snow storms so many years ago and made snow balls, put them in the freezer so that when we came for our annual summer visit, we could throw them at the oak trees in the front yard.  What a riot. The elderly making snowballs must have been a highlight for the neighbors.

I remember all the cardboard we went through sledding down the leaves in your back yard and the little pinch pots we made from the clay in the creek bed behind your house. I remember the hollow oak tree that Pepaw put a door on and we pretended was out house. I remember going through all the cake decorating books with you, planning a party and then going to Michael's to get the things we needed to put on a proper tea party with Helen Ann, Elaine and Helaine as the guests of honor. I learned to love cake decorating and much of my technique from those days.

I remember you sending us "goomy" bears for every holiday under the sun and anxiously awaiting a package that always, always came just in time to celebrate. I remember especially the hollow sugar eggs you made and all the painstaking detail you put into each one for Easter and how you would send us money for Easter outfits in single dollar bills rolled into tubes and tied individually with ribbon. I remember the 100 gold Sacajawea coins you gave me for my college graduation. I will always equate chocolate milk to your house and how you would allow us to put as much as we wanted into our cups. I remember the metal Mickey mouse spoons we got to eat with and those special orange juice cups that looked like cut oranges we drank out of.  You may not even understand what a blog is, but had blogs been around in your time of raising kids and especially grand kids, you would have had thousands of followers.

I miss you terribly Memaw and so wish you were still here with us. You have meant so much to me and your legacy will live on in ways you may never have known. And now we are going to have a hot cup of tea with some of your famous tea cakes.