By Rob Ficiur
This week we went on a family hike – including all six children and all six grandchildren. Like most life events I learned more about hiking and life from the younger generation(s).
1. Taking the high road is hard (let’s go the other way) – The hike we did was not the hike we had planned. Our research showed this was going to be an easy hike along the shore of the lake. The non-hikers in the group were going to take a boat and meet us across the lake. Several times we came upon shore line trails that were blocked off. We were directed up to a higher path. After an hour (that seemed like all day) of going on the higher roads, I found myself exhausted. Did that mean I was getting old? Can’t I handle a simple easy hike? When we were half way done my son who had been on the path before apologized. When he had done this before he had walked the lake side trail – that was the easy one that was now blocked off. It turned out the simple hike we had planned was blocked off and we were forced to take a higher road.
2. Lighten your load – As we set out to hike I tried to prepare for all I would need on the hike. My personal pack had enough water for three people, a few snacks, and my camera. As we scaled the Everest sized hills around the lake my pack of essentials became a burden. I ate the sandwiches and drank the water – I thought it was the slimiest way to reduce the weight in the pack. I knew (or at least I thought) that the hike would have been a breeze had I not been carrying the extra weight. While I muttered to myself at the excesses in my pack, my son raced ahead carrying a paddle boat on his back. When he said it was not heavy I grumbled. How can he – some 26 years younger than me – have more energy than I do? Later I lightened my load and wished I had not (more on that later)
3. We are almost there – the biggest lie hikers share. Twelve years ago I was the scout leader helping a group of young men to climb Table Mountain near Beaver Mines. The youngest of that group was my ten-year-old son. All the way to the top, I encouraged (lied) thaty we were almost there. Finally we made it to the top – but all he remembers is dad lying all the way to the top. On this family hike I spent time walking with this almost 23 year old son. When the hiking got steep and I could barely walk the table was turned. We are almost there, he kept encouraging me. We are almost there. Guess what those words were more annoying than encouraging. When I told him so he laughed having found his revenge 12 years later.
4. Teenagers are unpredictable – Two teenage grandchildren took part in the short hike that turned long. They are young and full of energy. They probably could have jogged up the hill which caused me to gasp for breath. Logic would have said that these two would have finished the hike first. After setting out ahead of the rest of the group, I knew they would race to the end and finished first. I was wrong. At one of our last breaks they stayed back and walked on with their parents and little brother. Any time you think you know what a teenager – or any human – is going to do- they surprise you.
5. Don’t lighten your load – Somehow I was among the first to reach the end of the hike. After a few minutes of resting I wondered how far behind the rest of our group was. I left my hiking pack with other group members and headed back to see how far the rest of our group had come. Five minutes into our return hike we saw a Bull Moose feeding in the forest. His full-grown rack of antlers would make an ideal picture. I have not seen a bull elk in the wild for several years. After lugging two cameras for the entire hiking trip – I had left them back at the dock. I lightened my load at the wrong time. Less than a minute after the moose had gone deeper into the bush, my hunting son (who talks all year about deer and moose) came along the trail. He saw where the leaves were swaying from the bull’s departure seconds before. Since there was no photographic proof of my seeing the bull moose –since no other family members saw the animal – my story of how big he was is getting bigger and bigger each time I tell it.
6. The energy lie – As described in item 1, the hiking path we were forced to go on was higher and steeper than we had planned. As we neared the end of the hike I pondered what to do for the next leg of our trip. The non-hikers in the group were going to take a boat shuttle back to our parking lot. For a mere 9 dollars I could take the boat back. I did not want to be a hike quitter. If I left my camera and all the food with the non-hikers, I could make the hike back I reasoned. As every muscle in my body told me we had hiked too much I finally conceded that I would have to abandon my plans for the return trip. As I panted and gasped for air I hinted to my son that I might be taking the boat back and not doing the return hike.
“You are kidding, right,” that tired hiker said to me. Oh no, I thought, I was letting him and the family down. “We are all taking the boat back,” he informed his clueless father. The plan had always been for us to take the boat back. I guess I should have paid attention to those small details.
Now I had renewed energy. I could have hiked all the way back. Yes, I could have run back at full speed. Once we are not required to do something then we think we have the energy to do what we previously knew we could not do.