We took the kids on their first backpacking trip last weekend. And it was just like that – our decades-old notion of backpacking colliding with little people who would squeeze entertainment from a tube if they could. In a ponderosa-oak forest. For 24 hours. Dan and I used to come to this spot every spring, just a quickie backpack, to greet the new season, to renew our vows to the San Juan Mountain backcountry. To eat wild candytuft, onions, chimaya; to smell ponderosa bark and Oregon grape flowers.
This trip brought to light all the disparities between adults and children. Rose was shocked that there weren’t multiple clothes changes available, or at least a few shoe options. I am relieved to dial down the choices inherent to modern life in America. Dan and I like the quiet contemplation of being in nature, a place where your wholeness is reflected back to you. (In fact, being free to simply think uninterrupted thoughts is my new favorite psychedelic experience.) The kids like to run and shriek.
I am happy to lean against the sweet-scented bark of a ponderosa and engage all my senses. The kids need to move their bodies as if recharging batteries. I am inspired by plugging into the network of plant ecosystems. The kids like the tangibility of something in their hands. I am comforted to be reminded of my smallness within the wild forces of the universe. The kids want to throw rock after rock to see their influence on the world.
It makes you wonder about the evolutionary pairing of these two age groups.
The swallows appear at twilight, dipping and soaring, cliff-diving in the watery-purple sky. I watch silently, reverently, filled with gratitude for being here, for being part of a larger whole and ...
“You brought this toothpaste?” An aggrieved voice asks.
(In the morning, it will be my own voice asking nervously, “We brought this?” wondering in what universe we decided to leave the coffee at home and bring green tea).
While picking nettles along a creek, all of us debating just how long a sting lasts from a live nettles plant, I look up, see a bear, a very large bear, and because I can’t quite connect my brain with my mouth, start babbling: “Over there, across the creek, everyone, look, that’s a ... a very large bear!” This chocolate-colored black bear was not at all alarmed by our presence. It did decide, in a very relaxed, no-need-to-hurry, way that it would turn away from the creek and head back into the trees. It ambled, in the skin-flappingest, blubber-waddlingest way, across the meadow, stopping every now and then to glance at us. We watched, breathless and silent, until the last sight of brown fur disappeared into the oaks.
For the kids, there were treasure hunts and the reading of the dubiously-literary mystery series Cam Jansen (which the kids inexplicably love). For the adults, there were 15 minute solo pilgrimages to fetch water from a creek (which we loved). Which is to say, somehow, we all got what we need. And next trip, Rose can carry as many pairs of shoes as she can stuff in her pack.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.