Discovering the details on Father’s Day hike
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – I always thought there aren’t enough days devoted to just me. Father’s Day is a good start.
This past Father’s Day came and went. Since I’m such a great guy, I agreed to allow my wife and 2-year-old daughter to share this day with me. We went for a hike, one of our favorite family activities in the summertime. As the first hike of the summer, I didn’t realize how different this hike would become.
At 9:30 in the morning, the day was already hot and dry. The cloudless blue sky just made the sun feel more intense. The dry, dusty trail we chose cut through a deep color of green that only appears around here after a wet, chilly spring. It was nice to feel summer in the mountains, if only for a little bit.
When the Kid was small and far less mobile, she sat contentedly in her backpack for hours. She liked the view. She also would predictably fall asleep 10 steps from the trailhead, her limp body lurched to one side like Ice Age’s Sid the Sloth, all 25-pounds of her throwing off the balance of the backpack, putting a limit on the length of hike by how long it took my lower back muscles to spasm.
Those hikes, while shorter than our pre-parenthood jaunts, still covered a good amount of mileage. Along with the benefit of passing scenery, those hikes were a great workout with the extra weight the Kid provided.
The Kid is now two years old. With increased mobility, increased independence, and increased willfulness, she now doesn’t care much for the backpack she still fits into. The Kid would much rather walk on her own.
Today the Kid, instead of passing out 10 steps into the trailhead, demanded to walk. I know I couldn’t keep her in the backpack, no matter how much I wanted to cover some distance on the trail. I’m now that experienced in parenthood, at least.
The Kid has the ability to walk at a fast enough pace. It’s not full-adult speed, but when she wants to get somewhere, she gets there in good time. This is most noticeable when I turn my back on her at the grocery store.
Outside of the produce section, however, the Kid rarely walks with a purpose to get somewhere. She’s more of a detail girl. On today’s hike, no blade of grass was too insignificant to catch her attention. She watched a worm wriggle in the middle of the dirt trail. She picked a bouquet of yellow dandelions. She grabbed two sticks and used a tree stump as her personal drum set. She sat in the dusty dry dirt.
When I felt the frustration build, I forced myself to adjust my expectations for these hikes.
Hiking used to be about lactic acid in the thighs, sweat down the back, and mile after mile ticked off until we came to the fixed destination: the waterfall, the lake, the panoramic view from the mountaintop.
Going for a Sunday morning hike with the Kid now has a different purpose. It’s less exercise, more Discovery Channel. Now it’s about sensory development. It’s about being outside. It’s about getting a little bit dirty. Now hiking is about noticing the details.
There’s a positive spin on this transition. With the old focus, a hike might require hours of driving to get to the right trail that led to the right view. Now, when I’m out with the Kid, the path cut through the common area weeds of our neighborhood is a safari.
Genevieve and Kelly Coffey share a column on their experiences raising a toddler. They share their mistakes, fears, and laughs along their journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.