So There Was This Hiking Trail And …

Dec 18, 2011 by

I am a total believer in the whole “baby steps” line of attack.

By that I mean if you’re going to fulfill that dream of sailing solo around the world, you might want to make sure you can get across a small lake in a Sunfish first. And that you are okay with the whole concept of having conversations with yourself, and by that I mean answering yourself, for weeks at a time.

Think about that.

Anyway, recently yours truly and two other dads decided to hike Pine Mountain in Georgia, along with an assortment of SONS. Those SONS including all three SONS of Thunder, one SON of Lightening and one SON of Scoutmaster. A 23-mile hike and we were going to spread it out over three days/two nights.

And yes, I know hikers on the Appalachian Trail can do a 23-miler in a day. Again, baby steps. We have the SONS to think about. And I’m getting old.

The plan was six miles the first day, 12 the second and wrap it up with the remaining six or so on the third day.

You know that expression about one’s eyes being bigger than their stomach? Keep that in mind.

So prior to this little jaunt we hit the Backpacking and Camping Store of Nirvana. Loaded up Middle SON with a new one-man tent for his birthday, got Youngest SON a new backpack and somehow Oldest SON, who has everything possible relating to backpacking, somehow found a few things he absolutely, positively, had to have.

I of course needed nothing.

I just shot coffee out my nose writing that.

Anyway, we get back and pack all necessary stuff in said backpacks. For the record, I am not one of those “ultra minimalist” backpackers. I don’t cut the corners off the maps and saw the toothbrush in half to save 0.34 ounces. On the other hand, I don’t pack the kitchen sink either. I use a lightweight backpacking stove

I’m more toward the “light” backpacker. But, there are some things I will not go without. Like a sleeping bag and pad, especially when it’s 30 degrees outside. I can pack pretty light and I actually understand the whole backpack weight to body weight ratio and all that.

Now Youngest SON is also the Smallest SON, and for some reason that whole formula is going out the window. Because there’s no way I can get his backpack weight down despite taking pretty much everything out of it. The thing still seems to weigh about what he does.

And it’s slightly unstable. I know this because every time he leans slightly one way, he just keeps tipping until he’s on the ground.

But we finally get everything figured out and the big day arrives. Off we go.

And to my amazement, we actually get more than a mile down the trail without a “are we there yet?” As is almost always the case, we started the day slightly behind schedule. And with it being winter and the whole loss of daylight hours, we kind of need to “hoof” it to get to our campsite before darkness descends.

And because we have to “hoof” it, the SONS start dragging. And the more we dads “encourage” said “hoofing,” the more the SONS “drag.”

You’d think we were on the Bataan Death March or something. I mean, the whole shuffling feet, head down, gasping for air,  “I can’t go another step” blah, blah, routine.

Yet somehow we make it to camp and set up right as darkness falls.

And suddenly our little Death March survivors have turned into High-Fiving Chipmunks, cause they are up and down, climbing and jumping and just basically acting like, well, chipmunks in the woods. Where did all that energy come from?

As we finally get ready to bed down for the night, I start doing a few calculations. Going at a somewhat normal pace, we can do about two miles an hour. Tomorrow is a 12-mile hike, meaning about six hours of hiking.

But then we need to factor in the “rests.” Said “rests” will include several snack breaks, followed by even more water breaks and every “we’re at the bottom of the hill so we need to rest so we can make it up,” followed by “we made it to the top so now we need to rest to restore our energy,” to the proverbial “I can’t go another step” rest.

I’m beginning to think this whole trip is not going to turn out as planned.

So in the morning we have a quick dad conference and agree we’ll do the first six miles and just take it from there. One dad left his car at that six-mile point, so if needed, we can call it quits. So we explain our plan to all the SONS. If anyone wants to, they can go back home at that point, while whoever wants to can continue.

The reactions are interesting. Our plan totally ticks off Youngest Thunder SON, who is adamant we are going to do the whole 12-mile stretch, camp and spend the night and  then do the finally six miles the next day. And for the first mile all he does is sulk about not the possibility – possibility mind you – we aren’t going to do the whole thing.

Middle SON quite adamantly says he is absolutely, positively going to be stopping at that six-mile marker.  And that goal becomes his Holy Grail.

And Oldest SON, the hard-core backpacker, offers to go home with Middle SON. He says it might be nice for Youngest SON and I to just have some “guy-time” and continue on our own. Oldest SON is blowing smoke. Because if he’s ready to pull out, you know we’ve hit the “eyes bigger than your stomach.”

Factoring in all the “rests” and “breaks,” it pretty well takes us most of the day just to get to that six-mile point.

And all the dads come to the same conclusion. We’ve had fun, but if we push the SONS anymore, they will hate it and will never want to do it again.  Even the Youngest SON, who was adamant we push forward a few hours ago, has hit the “I can’t take another step” phase.

And so we call it quits. Not “quits” really, but rather “enough.”

Basically, we cut our plan in half. We spent one night instead of two, hiked half the distance of the trail rather than the entire thing. But all the SONS are willing to go out another time, and that’s the key.

Baby steps.






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