All parents have seen it. Sometimes it’s disapproval, sometimes condescension, sometimes it’s support, and sometimes it’s surprise. Our kids do something where other people are present, and we see The Look. Someone’s eyebrow raises, a lip curls, a nose flares. Behind it is a thought, usually something like, “Are you going to let him do that?”.
In my case, someone’s jaw drops open, and the thought is more like, “You must be kidding.” I love that.
On my hiking trips to the White Mountains, Riley and Connor get equal treatment on who comes with me. On some trips it’s Rye, on others it’s the ConMan. Rye has been with me on some of the most glorious trips, like the three-day overnight to Zealand and the Bonds, the Kinsmans, and the South and Middle Carter trip. She’s also been on some of the more strenuous adventures, like last year’s Southern Presi traverse and the Dry River Wilderness.
But Connor’s been on some epic trips too, like Owl’s Head, the Wildcats, and the Willey Range. He’s done a lot of the grittier stuff, like a rainy trip to Mt. Hale, enduring the fog on Mt. Eisenhower, and an overnight on Waumbek where the temps got into the 30’s. He’s climbed the North Tripyramid Slide and the Flume Slide, as well as the steeps of Wildcat Ridge and East Osceola, where he waited while I found a way into the car without keys.
Imagine an 18-mile trek through barely-traveled wilderness, past forests of birch and pine, the occasional overgrown clearing, constantly accompanied by the rush of a clear river, without seeing another person. That’s the Pemigewasset Wilderness on a Tuesday.
On Monday we got out of Dodge (Eastern Massachusetts) during mid-morning. This was harder than it should have been due to traffic and construction. In fact, it’s extremely frustrating trying to get out of a busy region after everyone is up and about. But we finally headed north, and after swimming above the Basin in Franconia Notch (coooold), and lunch in Woodstock, we headed for Lincoln Woods and set up the tent at the Franconia East campsite, started a fire, then settled in before the 8PM rainstorm began.
The weird part is there was no single reason. No job change, family milestone, or graduation caused it. The kids have been around for a few years now, so it’s not that. This just kind of crept up on me, where I’ve become this person who wakes up at the crack of dawn to go running. And lifting, and whatever else it takes to get rid of the extra 50 lbs I’ve picked up.
But I’m not part of the fitness community or anything like that.
Here we are high up on the Durand Ridge of Mt. Adams in New Hampshire, heading along what they call the Knife Edge (I’ve been on Katahdin’s Knife Edge, and there is no comparison – I’d never take one of my kids on Katahdin’s, while Rye is hiking the Durand Ridge on her own). Except for the hour we spent on that ridge, I cruised to the junction of the Airline and Chemin de Dames trails in a little over two hours, where I let Rye hike (which is kinda the point), then powered up the rest of the way in a half hour after Rye got back in the pack. That’s 65 lbs total on my back, and I didn’t just beat the guidebook time, I crushed it.
Recently I posted something on Facebook, a mini-rant about the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. As a non-smoker, I find it a mite annoying, and the post was meant to raise a ruckus about it as well as share some humor (I’m usually trying to be funny and whether people think so is totally up to them).
We non-smokers don’t factor a few drags into every minor errand. When we need milk, we go to the store, buy it, get in the car and leave. It’s frustrating to get in the car, be just about to turn the key, and look up to see the other door still open while my spouse lights up. It’s even more frustrating to buckle two cute but impatient pre-schoolers into their seats, then force them to wait as well while mom gets in a few puffs.
Clear days, blue skies, cool breezes, dry ground, and yellow leaves. Fall is here, and it’s time to hit the trails.
I know that sounds like marketing drivel, but really, it is time. I was thinking my hiking season might be over by now, but as long as that sun keeps shining, why quit?
So with apples picked, waterslides slid, amusement parks visited, bikes ridden, and playgrounds hit, all my ducks were in a row for a fine late summer Sunday hike in the Whites. After years of staring at maps and plotting hiking trips, I finally got my chance to try the Carter range. The hiking trip to South and Middle Carter was on.
You can see the point where the Imp trail reaches Cowboy Brook, where the bushwhack begins.
Ha! George Washington gets one mountain in the Whites, while Jimmy Carter gets four! Okay, maybe Carter Dome, South, Middle and North Carter are named for someone else, but from their summits one can sure look up to Washington like Carter likely did (or, actually, from viewpoints near these partially-wooded peaks).
So the plan this Sunday (Sep 18, 2011) is to reach South Carter with Riley via the 19 Mile Brook Trail, Carter Dome Trail, and the Carter-Moriah Trail, then cross to Middle Carter, and take the North Carter Trail to the Imp Trail back to the car. SCREEEEEECH! Wait, what? Someone put the needle on the record… Can’t you see on the map that loop don’t close?
Here it is, the big trip report I’ve been trying to write for a couple of years now. When Riley and Connor came into my life, I was hoping to spend as much time as I could playing with them and writing about it. Since then, it’s been about 90% playing, 9% planning to play, and 1% writing. This is that 1%.
It turns out a three year old doesn’t play much baseball or chess. They like playgrounds, especially the ones near busy roads they can run into and basketball courts they can invade to disrupt the game. We go to one with a 40″ high chain-link fence, which my kids regard as more of a suggestion than a barrier.
These aren’t baloney babies. These are the kids who are so insane that their parents often get glared at by others. I’ve even crafted a response for when someone opens their mouth to me: “I’m sorry, we’re doing the best we can.” Then if they keep talking, I can say “I told you I was sorry, so now you’re just being a douchebag.”
I’m kind of a contrarian when it comes to following the rules. Sometimes I just follow my instincts, and sometimes I listen to what my instincts have to say and then do exactly the opposite. Just because. But it has nothing to do with the rules.
The marketing world doesn’t like this. Business punishes those (like me) who fail to follow the rule book.
But I know that the same things that put business success out of reach also make me one blazing hell of a good parent. I take the ‘free range’ approach with my kids. We run and play every single day, rain or shine. I push them to limits that makes most parents turn white. At the playground, my kids are out-jumping and out-climbing kids three times their age. They’re already swimming. By the time they go to kindergarten, they will both have completed a Presidential traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.