This summer my wife andd daughter have decided to put some of the rubber of ecological fitness to the road. Ok, they decided to go on a hike, and I decided it was in line with my theorizing mind and therefore “ecological fitness (trademark)”. The two senior of us are college teachers, me in nursing and my wife in painting and printmaking. So what give up in salary we make back in time. Time would be on our side. Towing us along this summer would be our nine year old daughter. As I have said before, this is a tough littler kid, who hikes up ten flights of stairs to get to her cabin in the woods, is a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do, and an avid violin player and maker of fairy houses in fern grotto. Still, for all her abilities, hiking in the high Sierra is hard for anyone, including a tough kid.
Our hope this summer is to explore how to have a pretty significant adventure together. The issue is that, whereas an adult or even a couple can pretty much point to a section of map and begin pushing, children require more thought, and more sensitivity. Clearly we could go the usual route and rent a cabin. Everyone will have fun. We’ll get tan and relaxed and a little fat on beer and fresh produce. But that is not an adventure. We could go over- seas or overland. Both adventurous but not particularly conducive to fitness. All sounded great really, but when it came down to it, what sounded the most interesting and rewarding, and challenging, was a small thru-hike.
If I could distil the goal for me, and I’m sure my wife and daughter would say it more simply, it comes down to finding the correct balance wherein adventure is achieved for all, and yet each is still working within their own set of possible frameworks and abilities.
What are those frameworks? Well, for one thing we really were not sure. Our daughter is a strong and patient person, and she is nine. What is a nine year old capable of? What is a nine year old capable of day after day? Will barriers be physical, psychological, emotional? Will we, her parents, have the skills to navigate her issues as they arise? Will I have the skill to push but not push too hard? Will I find a way to support her in achieving her goals, and still have her feel like I’m trustable? Will my expectations change? Will I figure out how to enjoy moving what I imagine will be more slowly and will less physical stress? Can I chill out?
What are some other concerns? I’ve laid awake nights worrying about injury. I think that is pretty unlikely but it’s a possibility. What will I do if I break my ankle? What if someone has a severe allergic reaction? I’m very comfortable in the mountains, but bringing my daughter evokes some fear, if I’m being honest.
Mostly, will I be able to bail if it is just obvious that bailing is best? I’m a super non-quitter, so is my wife. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do. Luckily I have a partner (two) whom I respect completely and I think together we can make these decisions.
We decided on the John Muir Trail (JMT) as our adventure for a variety of reasons. First because it is beautiful beyond belief, second it is near home and not difficult to bail from (Austria and Cambodia are tempting), and third, we hiked the trail when my wife was pregnant (unbeknownst to us). My wife had to go home early for feeling “weird” all those years earlier, so we thought now was the time to complete the trip.
So, two college teachers and a nine year old are planning to hike over 200 miles and over 84,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, spending about 23 days and nights out mostly over 10,000 feet. Should be fun…