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A Mile In Her Shoes

When my husband and I go on vacation someplace gorgeous, we love to be outdoors. We’ll explore national parks and pull over at scenic vistas and climb through tunnels and traipse up to see cliff dwellings – love it. And if we’re in Hawaii, our two favorite things to do are hanging out at the beach, and taking long hikes. Pre-kids, we’d do 8-11 mile hikes in a day, then collapse for a couple hours on the beach to clean up and cool down. Heavenly.

Now, we knew going back to Hawaii with kids would be different, and it was. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do our 4,000-feet-in-the-air, clinging-to-a-cliff’s-edge, 11-mile hike. We knew that. But we also wanted to expose the girls to hiking, and see if we could give them a taste of it so they’d love it as much as we do. So we picked out a few of our favorite hikes, ones with really spectacular, one-of-a-kind views very shortly into the hike, and prepared the girls. We grabbed walking sticks, water bottles, hats, and sunscreen, and headed out.

The verdict?

Happy Hikers, the Next Generation.

At the start we told Cora, the smallest at a new five, that we’d turn around whenever she said the word. For the first hike, we had a goal of one mile: a quarter of a mile into the hike revealed an amazing, Jurassic Park-like view, but a mile in you found yourself at the edge of the world’s highest swamp. We wanted her to see that. So we set out, everyone excited.

I forgot that what seems like a mildly strenuous hike to a twenty-something will feel like Mt. Everest to a five-year-old.

The mountains are almost always drizzly, and our red-dirt path was slick mud instead. Add to that a reasonably steep incline, and Cora slipped and fell four times. She’d ask to stop and rest, to take a drink from her water bottle, and then she’d shoulder her water bag, grab her walking stick, square her hat, and say, “Let’s get going” as she marched off. For about half the time that first hike, Cora needed Daddy’s hand, and indeed he caught her from many other spills. At a few spots, she was nearly vertically climbing on all fours. But we went on.

And as for Maddie? If I squinted, I could see her. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the distance. In front of us.

That kid – that kid is in love with hiking. I could see she’s got the same bug that I have. Brian does not, by nature, enjoy the act of hiking itself; for him, it’s being in a gorgeous place, and the payoff of a fantastic view at the end of it. For me, I’m always eager to get around the next corner, get over the next hump, press on, and see what’s coming. We both love hiking, just a bit differently.

And Maddie, she’s my girl in that area.

Maddie would go as far ahead of us as she could, my normally OCD-clean daughter happily covered in mud, and then tap her foot impatiently as she waited for us to catch up to her, the rest of us going at Cora’s pace. Finally I agreed to go ahead with Maddie – and let’s be frank, it’s partly just because I love pressing forward as well.

We didn’t quite hit the one-mile marker: we came up against a nasty stretch of muddy rocks that was simply impassable to Cora. I knew, though, from the other times I’d hiked the trail that the one-mile marker was right around the corner, so I told Cora, who finally consented to go back – as long as we were “right near” the one-mile marker. Returning to the car we passed other hikers setting out, who asked what the trail was like that day and how far we’d gone. Brian and I chatted pleasantly with them, giving them what intel we had, and both girls noticed that hikers are very kind and helpful towards each other. Just after we turned around the drizzle turned to earnest rain, and our brave girls hiked almost the whole way back in a rather uncomfortable rain, soaked to the skin and chilly in the mountain air. Back at the car, Cora couldn’t keep a grin off her face as she crowed, “I walked TWO MILES! TWO MILES! That’s like ten miles in grown-up steps!”

Our second hike was even more strenuous, and we set a modest goal of a half a mile. We knew that was an amazing scenic stop, and hoped just to get our girls to that spot. Now, when I say strenuous, I mean that the hike started at sea level at the beach, and a half a mile away we were at over 2,500 feet up. So it was a pretty darn steep ascent, pretty darn fast. Lots of boulder crawling, lots of four-legged hiking up a tricky stretch. A few times I heard Cora say to herself, as comfort, “We turn around as soon as I say so.”

But she kept going.

And once again, both girls were jubilant when we reached our goal. Maddie led as much as we’d let her, and quickly fell into hiking guide extraordinaire: “Cora, place your stick right here for this tricky step down –it’s the perfect spot for it. Now Cora, as we go down this difficult part, be sure you’re walking sideways so you don’t slip as much. Look, Cora, place your feet in these little niches carved out by the water.”

And so on.

And as we went back down, we once again filled in new hikers who were eager for news of trail conditions. And since Brian and I had done more of the hike in years passed, we told them how far we’d gone, what to expect coming up, and what sort of time lengths each stretch would take.

Every day on vacation the girls begged to hike, and Brian and I had to put our parental foot down, be stern, and say, “Listen, girls, we’re going to the beach now, and no complaining!”

Yeah, who has to say that? Apparently, we do.

The final hike of our vacation was a cake walk by comparison: a one-and-a-half mile walk to a lovely waterfall. Less of a hike and more of a stroll, we saw very few backpacks and about a half-dozen tourists out looking for a quick glimpse of a waterfall – slightly underestimating how far they’d have to walk. In all the path was easy: a few hilly spots, but much of it steady path walking, and we reached our destination with relative ease. As we walked along we played word games to pass the time, and I have to tell you, my heart about busted out of my chest with happiness. My family! With me! In paradise! Hiking and loving it!

As we walked back, completing a total of three miles, we let Cora take the lead. We crossed another casual day-tripper, out to see the beautiful waterfall, and Cora nodded confidently at her. “It’s a beautiful day today, and the path looks good, and I made it the whole way to the end!” Cora said cheerfully to the woman who, to be honest, had not asked Cora anything. Nonetheless, the stranger smiled and responded, “Wow, way to go! Thanks for the info!” and passed us by.

Cora looked back at me, smiled happily, and said, “I’m an expert hiker.”

Yes you are, baby, yes you are.


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