Day 2 – adrenaline, aches, altitude, & arches
Bear Bait is a true outdoorsman. Not only did that boy sleep so deeply that I had to check his pulse a few times, but he stayed cozied up in his sleeping bag until the fire was made, breakfast was cooked, and his hot cocoa was cooled down enough to drink. We were already starting to pack up when he finally rolled out of the hammock.
Breakfast was toasted cheese sandwiches, oatmeal, candy bars, Kool-Aid, and hot cocoa for the little guys. They ate until they were groggy.
The boys played in the stream while Kat and I packed up camp, watered the ashes, and tried to make the place look generally better than we found it. Original plan was to just head on up the mountain and make a day out of those three miles. While the boys have been on longer hikes, this climb was going to be the hardest terrain they’ve ever attempted for any distance. Even after we explained that to them, they still begged us to go back to HIH so they could rock climb and play around some more. How could we resist? After a few false starts, delayed as each Dad took his turn leading his boy off a little deeper into the woods with the diminishing roll of toilet paper, we eventually made it to the falls where we enjoyed a good two hours watching the boys play completely uninterrupted by anyone else.
As they started to wind down, we whipped up another batch of camp sandwichis and Kool-Aid then headed up the hill. It was the Tortoise and the Hare. Bear Bait is a sprinter. He ascends in bursts of awe-inspiring energy that eat up maybe twenty or thirty yards at a time. Then he sits down and pants while the rest of us lumber up. Kit is a meandering butterfly who probably covers a third more miles than anyone else simply because he drifts from side to side, singing between mini-lectures on botany, paleontology, and geology. We toyed with changing his trail name to Mister Wizard.
We stopped for the boys’ third breakfast right at the top on that last campsite before you descend down to the falls. Cleaned up some soup cans left over from last night’s campers. While we were doing that Bear Bait asked why we were picking up someone else’s trash, which opened up the door for a little lesson on every good backpacker’s responsibility. For the first hour or so, we gained about a mile and didn’t see anyone on the trail.
As we were nearing the overlook, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo blew past us heading down to the Falls so fast that I thought she was a heat mirage. The boys were doing great, but Bear Bait was starting to get irritable. We poured a little more water into them and refueled them with Cheeze-Its and headed on up the mountain. Maybe a mile from the trail-head, Bear Bait attempted his first and only all-out mutiny. He plopped down, red-faced and panting after his latest surge uphill and announced that he hated hiking and hated being outdoors. His feet hurt and he was tired and all he wanted to do was camp and none of this walking.
I waved Kat and his boy to go on ahead up, dropped my pack, and sat down with him. Didn’t say anything for a while, just let him stew. Offered some water, then pulled out the candy bar I’d been saving just for this occasion. He grunted when I broke off a piece for him, but accepted it and we ate for a minute in silence. I told him how every time I go out backpacking, I always wish he was there with me. Told him how proud I was at how good he’s doing and what a hard climb this is. I admitted that at least once every backpacking trip, I also hate hiking. I hate the climb and the stupid rocks and the stupid heat. He started glancing side-long at me, then, as if I were admitting some deep secret. I then told him that this was probably the hardest trail he’ll ever go on until he’s grown and if he made it to the top, that he’d know there’s not a trail anywhere around here that can beat him. Then I explained the power of the cheeseburger march. How if he could just imagine eating anything and everything his heart desires at McDonald’s on the way home, that he would simply fly up that mountain. He asked, cautiously, “Anything?” I nodded. “Even a sugary caffeine drink?” I nodded again and his eyes widened because he hardly ever gets to drink soda. I said, “I’ll even let you order ice cream with M&M’s in it.” That was all I had to say. He nodded and said, “Dad, I’m ready.” And before I could grunt and bend myself upright, he was up the trail and out of sight.
The closer we got to the trail-head, the more tourist-types we began to see on the trail. Dragon Tattoo girl blew past us heading back up. She mentioned something about not having enough water but moved so fast I think she may have simply been a figment of my imagination.
The weather was beautiful.
We made it up those 2.5 miles in about 3.5 hours. The boys fell asleep almost before we could get out of the parking lot and didn’t wake up until we got to Springdale. Stopped at a McDonald’s and watched the boys gorge happily on nuggets, fries, root beer, and ice cream. Just like their daddies tend to do, their conversation was mostly about where the next trip will be.