So the kids and I decided to go hiking on Monday morning and give Mom a little break. It is a pastime we recently started (this Spring) – and really enjoy doing. Since this past weekend was the first time I was able to see the sun other than gazing through the plate glass windows of a cube farm, it has been a pretty slow hiking season (twice, with once being through the backyard). This wouldn’t be the first hobby of mine that got off to a slow start (but this time it really isn’t my fault).
Anyway, we packed up our equipment. I am sure you are wondering what equipment one would need to walk through the woods. We have equipment for many reasons:
- Keeping interest during the monsoon season has been challenging. We were forced to take several hikes through sporting goods stores – let’s call them the credit card hikes – and equip ourselves for the soon-to-be-happening-if-it-ever-stops-raining hikes . These trips resulted in whistles, rain ponchos, bandannas, flashlights, – I realize this sounds kind of like we are forming a boy band – a compass, and some butt packs (this boy band thing is really coming together). I think they are now marketed as “lumbar” packs. My son prefers “fanny” pack. My wife thinks they look foolish regardless of what we call them.
- My daughter, the 4 year old, is all about the snacks. Packing lots of snacks and drinks requires the right equipment.
- My son, the 8 year old likes being prepared. For anything. For everything. That includes a camera, binoculars, a bag for picking up interesting stuff, and our New England Field Guide. Of course, if he has binoculars, she needs binoculars; if he has a notebook, she needs a notebook; etc.
- My kids want to hike with “real canteens”. They can’t show me what one looks like, but they know it doesn’t look like a water bottle. I tried to explain that through the wonder of modern technology a canteen, in fact, has morphed into a plastic water bottle in order to avoid the numerous downsides of “old school” canteens – like brown, rust flavored water – but they don’t care. On one of our credit card hikes I found some of those western style “water bags” (they look like wineskins) and got them for the kids.
- On our first non-backyard hike we only had one backpack which we put on the pack mule (me) and had him haul all our stuff through the woods. The multiple lumbar packs allow for appropriate distribution of load. 🙂
- We have walking sticks. Another rain activity was to cut down a small tree in the backyard and make walking sticks. So we could walk through the woods viewing nature and seeing real trees (lucky that they were not in our backyard). Actually, we didn’t so much cut down a tree as much as we “pruned the woods” in our backyard for the health of the other trees. We are arborists, not tree killers. Regardless, we have walking sticks to enhance the hiking experience. They are also tools of self defense. (I imagine they would add a few seconds to our lives if we were attacked by anything larger than a ferret.)
- I like equipment. I tend to start most hobbies by acquiring the right equipment. (Anyone want to buy a bike?)
My wife helped us load the car. The kids desperately wanted to put something besides water in the water bags – perhaps to make up for the rust flavor they would be missing – so we made some lemonade. Mom loaded the lemonade into two thermos bottles (because it would be a damn shame to use any of the equipment we already have in the car) and we packed snacks – some of those little cheese wiz and crackers snack packs and some pretzels (more about these soon). I decided to surprise the kids with a stop at the health food store to make trail mix!
First stop, the bagel shop – I had been craving a bagel all morning. My son realized he had forgotten the pretzels. Apparently, this ruins a hike. Countless dollars of equipment, beautiful sunny day, other snacks, fresh lemonade, and fresh bagels, and the friggin pretzels are going to ruin the hike. Hmmmm… perhaps the health food store has pretzels.
Second stop, health food store. They had lots of pretzels, but apparently not the right kind of pretzels. We purchased soy chips (which my daughter and I like, but my son does not) and all got to make our own trail mix in the bulk food section. Since we cleverly mixed the trail mix as we grabbed the bulk items, we were allowed to pay the price of the most expensive item for all of it. I also made an impulse buy of two bottles of electrolyte enhanced water. I have no idea what that means, but the bottles looked slick and if they are in a health food store, I assume they must be better for you. I probably would have bought it if it was enhanced with any word I didn’t know, so here’s hoping I’m up on all my water soluble carcinogens. If I recall correctly, I think it claimed to improve my brain power, so perhaps I won’t make that bulk food mistake again. [Sidebar: If I recall correctly, then it seems to have worked; if not, then it never claimed to!]
Third stop, Mowry Conservation Area. Our previous non-backyard hike had been the Ledge trail at Mowry, so this time we were going to do the Pines trail. We unloaded all the equipment, doused ourselves from head to foot with bug repellent, strapped on all the equipment, picked up our walking sticks, and set off on our merry hike! I was pretty pleased with my new lumbar pack. I loaded its twin water bottle holsters with
the electrolyte enhanced water, strapped it onto my lumbar, and adjusted the many adjustable straps. It was most comfortable.
I swear we had gone no more than 500 feet when my son shared in a fit of frustration that the water bag just wasn’t going to work. It was too heavy and the string dug into his neck. I pulled out his bandanna and created a shoulder pad that was both functional and stylish (we really could be a boy band). He lamented the pretzels again and I suggested he try some of his trail mix. He took a few bites, and then said, “This is disgusting”. At least the bandanna paid off.
Stylish it may have been, but my son did not consider it functional. He was now lamenting that the hike was going all wrong – first the pretzels, then the trail mix, then the water bag, what next? I hardly wanted a water bag to ruin this hike, so I strapped his water skin onto my lumbar pack and off we went. I was now lugging about twice the amount of water which represented most of of the weight in the lumbar pack, so it was riding a bit low. Fortunately my rear end is “muscular” enough that the lumbar pack was able to rest on it a bit in an effort to remain on my lumbar. The bug spray on my hand was making my walking stick a bit sticky, so I shifted my hand to find a dry place to hold it.
My daughter paused and announced, very nonchalantly, “I am going to poop my pants”. I paused and pondered. We paused and discussed. She decided she could hold it and would rather finish the hike then go back to the car and drive to find a toilet. The bug spray must have been magic bug spray because no matter where I shifted my hand on the walking stick, the bark became saturated and sticky with bug spray. It’s wasn’t very magic, though, because the bugs were still swarming and biting me. On the other hand, they were not biting my walking stick.
My son found a hunk of quartz. It seemed quartz trumps pretzels, because it was enough to recover the hike. And I quote “this is so cool, I don’t even remember all that bad stuff.” Until that moment, I hadn’t realized what a negative influence a hard, dry, flour-based, salted snack food could be. Nor the healing power of quartz. At this point the magic bug spray was congealing and strips of bark were being torn off the walking stick every time I removed my hand. And yet, the bugs kept biting.
My daughter declared that her water bag was really annoying her (and trust me – you don’t want to annoy her), so I strapped it onto my lumbar pack, which at this point was really struggling to remain a lumbar pack. I must admit it was starting to look more like a fanny pack, or, from a distance, a Carol-Burnett-skit-style rear end. It occurs to me that I was yet again the pack mule except instead of carrying a large backpack, this time I had everything strapped to my ass.
Snack break! We all stopped for a snack break. My daughter frosted the cake by saying “I love these kinds of trips”. She and my son decided to “go exploring” around the snack rock – they like to do that when we take breaks. I snapped some pictures (good thing we brought the camera) and dug into the trail mix while I waited. My son was right – it sucked. The electrolyte water tasted exactly like water, which is odd, because I would think the additional cost would buy you some flavor. Dunno, maybe I’m smarter now. (Smart enough to buy plain water next time? Hey – where did we get water when I was a kid?) The magic bug spray finally dried and while it still wasn’t effecting the insects, it was also no longer disintegrating my walking stick. (Upon returning home, I sanded the bark off my hand.)
We spotted the car on the horizon. Well, what did you expect – this was only our third hike! It was back to the car, pack up the equipment, and head home – with a pit stop for frozen lemonade, of course!
Once we got home, the kids reported to mom about their wondrous hiking experience and I updated our hiking journal (which I highly recommend – not ours, but the concept… although ours is pretty good). I bought a cool Moleskine notebook, which we make an entry into after every hike. Already it is fun to read the existing 3 entries (yes, the backyard hike got an entry).
I think this hobby may work out!