During our recent Spring break vacation, we decided to forego any sort of relaxation or comfort and hike to the top of a mountain in Tennessee. Before I begin any sort of whining, let me first say that it was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, and sharing it with our children made it even better.
Our destination was a lodge situated in the middle of the Smoky Mountain National Park. At 6,593 feet of elevation, nearly the highest in the east, the views were breathtaking. And being so remote, the facilities were quite rustic. There was no running water, no electricity. Propane heaters, kerosene lanterns, and an outdoor well pump provided us with what we needed. The hosts provided food. And yes, there were toilets. I know someone is wondering.
But to get to all of these wonderful accommodations, a person had to hike up the mountain. There are no roads available, just rough trails that gain about 4,000’ of elevation over the course of six to eight miles, depending on which trail you take.
The area had gotten seven inches of snow two days before our trip began, and we knew we were in for quite a hike. Even though when we stepped out of our car at the bottom the temperatures were nearly 70, the top of the mountain was expecting lows in the 20’s. (This just seems like a normal Spring day in Ohio, right?) Our packing therefore consisted of plenty of water, snacks, and warm clothes for once the sun went down.
Kids can only carry so much on their backs, so my husband and I took the bulk of the weight. Being backpackers in our younger days, I was thrilled to strap a few pounds on my back and start heading out for a big day of hiking. “This old mom still has it!” were the words going through my head as we set off.
But then we kept going. And the kids sang songs they wrote or knew and hopped through the snow and slowly we found ourselves yelling at our kids to slow down so that we could keep up.
At that point, it hit me. Up until that moment, we were always the ones dragging the kids down the trail, telling them to walk a little faster, to whine a little less, to keep moving and feeding them little pieces of candy to keep up the energy level. And suddenly I realized that our kids have officially gotten faster than us. From now until forever, we’re probably going to be the ones working hard to not be left in the dust, training extra hard at the gym hoping we can maintain pace with those people we once drug mile after mile.
Next time, they carry the big packs. And candy to feed us when we slow down.
Originally written 3.27.16