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.

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