For so many years, I coaxed little people up the path with promises of granola bars and possible salamander sightings. I so remember Ben praying his way through summer hailstorms, Stefan filling his pockets with so many rocks his pants fell down (he was four), Gabe chasing every squirrel and Mary insisting she needed a piggy back ride (she was twelve).
And suddenly, they’re running ahead of me, racing to the top, searching for new trails and informing me what time to wake up. Usually we try to hike once a week in the summer, but this year we hiked two or three times a week, sometimes twice a day.
And while I’m passionate about the spiritual, emotional, physical and social benefits of hiking–I also don’t take hiking as seriously as some. We go often because we keep it simple– tennis shoes, a water bottle, a couple granola bars and sunscreen– and if it’s less than four miles we forego the water and snacks. Unless we’re hiking Timp– like in these photos and video– then we pack lunch, jackets, a Frisbee and all the water bottles we can carry.
Along with the obvious gift of fitness and ideal setting for conversation, hiking lends itself to parables– looking out for others along the trail, ceasing from judgment, going at your own pace, pushing past your weakness for the summit…
While we sometimes hike for speed, we subscribe highly to the stop and smell the wildflowers style of hiking. I’ve impressed it on my kids that we stay together, we wait for people who are struggling, we take time to joke and play Frisbee and watch Connor fly his drone.
Early in the summer, several of Gabe’s friends hiked with us while preparing for their Stake Pioneer Trek. It was a pretty quick pace, but everyone was doing fine until suddenly one girl stopped in the middle of the trail, burst into tears and told us to go on without her. Having experienced the same lack of oxygen/sudden onset of despair on a hike with Xander last summer, I knew exactly what she was feeling. Three of us gathered round her, gave her water and snacks and promised we’d be with her every step of the way. She didn’t know– but I did– that she was at the crossroads of her hiking life. If we’d left her to fend for herself, she’d hate hiking (and probably us). Yet as we walked and talked with her and let oxygen fill her lungs and replenish her strength, she hiked straight to the top of the mountain and skipped ahead of us on the way down– too energetic for our tortoise pace.
Tie on shoes, grab some water, head to the mountains. It’s a good way to spend a morning. It’s a good way to live.