Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Labor Day" True to Its Name

On Sunday, I told Brett that I wanted to do something fun on Monday, seeing as it was Labor Day and we could do something together as a family.  We made plans with friends to go on a hike and later have a picnic lunch together ... and so begins yet another Kellum Adventure!

Before I start, let me share with you two dreams that Brett and I had the night before ... if I believed in premonitions, I would have listened better! :)  My dream was about going on this hike only to have the plans changed at the last minute to a river float trip.  I was left scrambling as I tried to round up life-preservers for the kids.  This dream might be an indicator of my level of preparedness for this trip!  Brett's dream focused around lower back pain ... his is the only dream that came true!

And one more thing before I start ... if our friends are reading this:  We had a great time the entire day!  It was just more than we bargained for ... in a lot of ways! :)

Okay ... so here it goes!  We planned to meet up with our group in Palisade at 9 am.  After stopping off to get muffins and a few supplies, we pulled into the gravel parking lot and waited.  Right at nine, the rest of our party arrived and we agreed to follow each other over to the trailhead.  Our hiking group consisted of our family of six, another family of four, three neighborhood kids and another couple (who probably had no idea what they were in for!).  We made sure we were all fully sunscreened and that everyone had water, extra snacks and hats.  We took a group picture, "Cheese!", and headed off to ... Mt. Garfield!  If you are familiar with the Grand Valley, Mt. Garfield is that really high mountain just north of I-70.  It towers out over the valley.  It's really high and steep. There was a sign at the trail head that said, "Mt. Garfield - 2 miles - 2,000 feet".  You get the picture.

Now for a little background, I like to hike, but I'm not necessarily into mountain climbing.  Brett also enjoys hiking, but again, for the past several years (in direct reference to the size and age of our family) our hiking trips have been mainly walks with some ups and downs.  Just so you know what kind of background and experience we are bringing with us into this trip.

Climbing the "wall".
Each of us had a kid-pack on our backs - not that I ever ended up carrying anyone.  Lydia certainly had the easiest trip as she was strapped to Daddy's back.  I had the pack on just in case Ashley's little 18-inch legs gave out.  We headed out ... and up.  Imagine your living-room wall.  Now imagine it at a slight slant and covered in loose dirt and small rocks.  Now imagine climbing it.  That about sums it up!  There was no gradual climb or warming up.  It was straight up the dunes and then on up until your lungs exploded.  We did take a few breaks here and there.  But it was onward and upward.  About 30 minutes in, poor little Ashley started saying she couldn't walk anymore.  Unfortunately for her, neither could Mommy.  This is where my pride started to get in the way.  It was becoming quickly and obviously clear that I was waaaaaay out of my league with this mountain and yet ... onward and upward!

A few more minutes of encouraging little Le-Le along and one of the other adults offered to wear the pack and load up Ashley.  Whew ... now if there was only a pack for me.  Brett was huffing along (remember he had Lydia on his back ... and every extra pound counts) and taking regular breaks.  Meanwhile, the rest of the party was motoring on and the kids are literally scrambling over boulders.  I was looking up (and up and up and up) and I was not feeling the charge of tackling this mountain ... I was feeling shaky and just a little nauseous.  I consider myself to be in relatively good shape, but this hike was more than I could do.  Finally, I swallowed my pride (gosh darn it ... I wanted to do this!) and signaled that I was done.  All I could think was, "The farther I go up, the farther I have to go back down.  I need my legs to work the whole hike."  Brett, being the sweetie, agreed to go back down with me.  I'm quite certain that he would have just kept goin' and goin' and goin', but he opted to head down with me and the two little ones.

The view from my "top".
I had to sit for a bit to get my feet back under me (and, no, I didn't throw up ... but I was close.)  While I sat there, I had a little battle going on in my head and heart.  It was a terribly hard choice.  I struggled with what others thought of me, I struggled with disappointment with myself and I struggled with being up against something that my kids were going to do without me.  But the reality was that I would be foolish if I continued on.  I had to have a little perspective change up there on the side of that mountain.  From my perch on that rock, I could see the span of the valley and I decided that I would have to enjoy just what I was able to do and not kick myself for my limitations.  When my head felt re-attached to my body again, we headed back down the slope while the rest of the party marched on.  It was a little weird to let Aaron & Norah continue, but I was sure they were in good hands and their enthusiasm had not waned a bit ... a good indicator for me that they could go the distance.

Now, as you know, the path up the mountain is hard work, but the path back down is hard on your body ... specifically your knees and ankles.  I am so glad that I didn't over-tax my body on the way up, because the trip down was all I could really do.  Brett had Lydia still on his back, so he went on ahead and paused periodically for us to catch up.  Meanwhile, Ashley and I "baby-stepped" down the hill.  Little baby-steps down the slope, little baby steps over the boulder, little baby steps over the ravine ... I think I we would have made Dr. Leo Marvin from "What About Bob?" proud!  I was blessed with a few little precious snapshots with Ashley that I would have missed if I was over-taxed (or being flown out in a helicopter! ha, ha!)  Here are a few of her sweet words, "I can see the whole planet from up here!", "You're a good hiker, Mommy, just like me." and "Daddy's the best hiker 'cause he has long legs."  I am grateful for all the time I got to hold little Ashley's hand and hear her child-like commentary on the hike down, "I think God painted these rocks pink ... I like pink."

When we finally landed on the flat ground again (at 11:11 am), we set Lydia loose to run a bit and explore with Ashley.  Just about then, my cell phone rang and it was one of our party letting us know that they had reached the top and were headed to the summit.  Aaron and Norah were doing great and plugging along with the pack.  We decided to head into town to go potty and get gas and then we would meet the group back at the trail head for lunch.  I started to feel a little regret ... nobody likes to be a party-pooper ... but there was nothing to do now but wait.  At about 12:30 we saw our party, little ants in a line, moving slowly back down the trail.  It was a slow trek back down the mountain, but they were making steady progress.  Brett headed back up the hill to meet up with them and make sure our kids were still doing well (see ... I knew he could have done the whole hike!) while we girls moseyed to the bottom of the slope to "Hail the Conquering Heroes"!

There is something powerful and amazing to watch your kids accomplish something big, something you aren't able to do.  It was hard no to be a bit teary eyed watching them come galloping down the hill (their knees were giving out, too) and to see their huge, proud smiles on their faces!  They had done it and they had done it well. The adults looked bushed, but they were still smiling and had great things to say about the kids persevering and pushing themselves.  I loved hearing the banter back and forth from them all as then recounted exciting parts of the trip:  the rattlesnake, the path blocked by the boulder they had to climb and the fantastic view from the summit.

We all made it back to the vehicles, but the adventure wasn't over yet.  If it had just been us Kellums hiking, it would have been a PB&J lunch in the car and then head home.  But, that wasn't our friends' plans.  We headed over to a vineyard in Palisade that had a big grassy area and picnic tables.  Our friends had packed an amazing spread including home-grown tomatoes and fresh, sliced mozzerella; hummus and veggies and fresh sandwich makings.  We topped it off with some celebratory wine and a sweet time of adult conversation ... while the kids ran around playing tag.  Where do that get that energy?!?!

So as I said before, we got more than we bargained for ... but in a good way!  I got to come up against my limitations and come to terms with the fact that there are some things I cannot do.  I got to swallow my pride and make a tough choice.  I still got a great view of the Grand Valley (Ashley's whole planet!). I enjoyed some quality time with my girls and I came face to face with Brett's love (again) as he chose to serve me.  I also got to see my kids step up and step out in the face of a big challenge ... and come back down the mountain a few inches taller.  I had the joy of a yummy lunch and fun conversation.  I had the wonderful experience of a hard day's work and the feeling of "ahhh" at the end.
Mt. Garfield

And I have the gift of reliving all this again every time we drive I-70 and look up at Mt. Garfield looming over the highway ... reliving the time my kids climbed to the top ... and I didn't, but I didn't throw up, either! :)

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