Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Friday is the New Saturday

What do desperate climbers do when the past umpteen weekends have had a crap-a-delic forecast?  Play hooky and make Friday the new Saturday!  While our last-minute decision to leave a day early made for a hectic start to our earlier-than-normal weekend, it was well worth it for us all – and we got plenty of rest on the back end of the weekend to prepare for the upcoming week…I think I could get used to this strategy!

Burly jump start of Headbutt 11d…cool pic, but no send.

While the New was beckoning to me like a singing siren to a delirious sailor, we ended up going to Hidden Valley so CragDaddy could get a crack at his project from last year before the weather turned too hot.  He’d been working on the 13a slab start to Spurs, a line more commonly done as a 5.9 hand crack to an awesome 5.10 jug haul.  Last spring he was able to link much of the opening crux, and after jump training all summer, was able to get the dyno crux at around 50% success rate during the fall…but then just couldn’t put the lower moves together.  But thankfully, it all came together for him this time around, and he earned his ticket to the 5.13 club in fine style!  We got a little bit of video of the send – check that out here.

That’s a 5.13 climber up there!!!

I’ve got nothing on the dyno, but lucky for me, CragDaddy was done by mid-day and we had the rest of the afternoon to spend at the SNL wall, where I was psyched to try the Coneheads Link-up line.  

This line connects the bottom half of Coneheads #2 (12c) with the upper half of Coneheads #1 (13a).  The former I completed last fall, and the latter I’d never touched.  The bottom half begins with a crack, which CragDaddy and I both have pretty darn dialed at this point, as the opening crack is ALSO shared by Blues Brothers 12a, which we ALSO did last fall.  After the crack is a weird sequence around a big block, which although not incredibly hard (11a?) is fairly burly and a little bit scary cutting feet with the large brown slab looming below you.  The fear factor can be neutered with a piece of gear, then the rock kicks back into a sea of overhanging bucket jugs for a couple of bolts to intersect with the upper section of Coneheads #1.  Pulling onto the upper headwall involves a big rock-over move and long toss to a jug, followed by sustained technical face climbing similar to it’s neighbor, Coneheads #2.  The headwall sequence on this link-up is a little easier though – not quite as powerful, and not quite as long.  There’s a decent row of holds a few feet from the anchors that takes the edge off and allows for a clipping stance, thus avoiding the same long runout found on Coneheads #2.  

Clipping just before embarking on the block move, Coneheads Link 12c

My first go was just okay.  The upper section was covered in dirty silt from all the recent rain, and after repeatedly getting dirt and lichen in my eye from trying to brush the holds at the extent of my reach, I ended up stick-clipping my way through the crux so I could save my sight and brush from above.  Although I rehearsed the sequence again when I lowered, I was pretty tired and the sequence was so much to remember.  I also wasn’t super confident about my beta for the scary block move down low, and due to the steepness of the middle section, couldn’t get back down to it to practice it again on lower.  So because of all that (and also because sometimes I’m a pansy ;)) I decided to toprope for my second go, figuring it would be easier to refine my beta in those questionable sections, knowing that it really wouldn’t matter since I wasn’t ready to send anyway. 

Chicken winging my way to the send…Coneheads Link 12c

But.  You guys I did it!  Only not really, because I was on toprope.  Dangit.  The bottom part was smooth sailing, and I felt like I had all day in the upper section, casually cruising through the crux (all the while bemoaning my mistake that was becoming more and more obvious with every move.)  Moral of the story – believe in yourself, and don’t be a pansy!  

Thankfully though, the story doesn’t end there, as I still had enough time for one more shot.  This time the bottom part went just as smoothly as before, but by the time I got to the big rockover move, I was a lot more pumped than I wanted to be.  I barely made the move, but I shook out best I could, told myself I only had about 8 feet before another decent hold, and launched into the upper crux.

And then a familiar feeling started to creep in…you know the one.  It’s like when you’re watching a basketball game and the team that’s been winning the whole game starts making a few mistakes, and the losing team capitalizes on those mistakes.  You can feel the tide turn as the losing team begins gaining momentum, and all of a sudden the winning team starts “playing not to lose” rather than “playing to win.” As a climber I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in the redpoint process – when that previously pumped-but-managing-to-stay-in-control state starts to unravel and panic starts to set in a little bit, there’s a temptation to shift from “climbing to send” to “climbing not to fail.” 

Everyone had an awesome day.

My pump clock started ticking faster and faster.  I reached up for my next hold, but it wasn’t where I thought it was going to be, and I burned several seconds (and valuable forearm juice) trying to find it.  By the time I got back on track I was red-lining, and that panicky feeling had turn into desperation.  I concentrated on my foot placements and keeping as much tension as I could, and somehow still made the long lock off to the clipping hold at the last bolt.  My inner monologue had told myself it should have been over at that point.  And it should have.  Just a handful of moves left, on thin feet, but decent edges.  But coming in hot on lap #3 of this route, the battle was anything but over.  The sun was now filtering through the trees at an angle that made everywhere I looked either blindingly bright or completely shadowed, and I couldn’t for the life of me find the right footholds for the final moves.  After a few moments of panic, I just smeared my feet and hung onto the final edges with everything I had.  The finishing jug was huge…but there was so much rope drag that I almost couldn’t even clip.  I got the rope in probably only a couple of seconds from my hands completely opening up.

All smiles

While I’ve been on harder routes before, and certainly made my share of desperate moves before, I don’t think I’ve ever been THAT pumped and had to try THAT hard for THAT long…and still been successful.  I credit that success to the training I’ve been doing with Kris Hampton of Power Company Climbing.  This was the first time I’ve ever sent 12c in a day before, and in essence, I sent it twice.  Had I not given in to self-doubt and pulled the rope to get the legit send on the 2nd go, I would have been delighted with how easily the route had gone down.  But even though it wasn’t the way I would have planned it, forcing the try hard burn at the end of the day was a pretty cool experience, and showed me that maybe I’ve got a lot more in the tank than I thought.  After all, sends that are bought by sheer will power, the ones you feel like you maybe “got away with” a little bit, are always the most memorable! 

And apparently I really did leave it all out there on Friday, because when Saturday rolled around I had nothing!  My second day was filled with unsends, thrashings, and flailings of all kinds.  I’m sure it didn’t help that it’s mid-April and this was our first time climbing two days in a row all spring…thanks rain.  But on the bright side, the forecast for this coming weekend is looking like we may get a spring after all!  Fingers crossed.  

Looking forward to lots more of this in the coming weeks!

 

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Spring, then Winter, then Spring at the Red

So it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve written on this blog.  While I never write as often in the winter, usually I can at least put together a post or two, but apparently not this time around!  The intention was there.  We did some cool stuff worth writing about – skiing, snow tubing, hiking, a kid climbing day at Rocky Face, and even a daytrip date with CragDaddy to Rumbling Bald.  But that whole “time-to-write” thing kept eluding me.  However, with the beginning of spring season upon us, it’s time to find the time again.

Big C soaking up the sun at the Solar Collector

It’s only fair to warn you that this first trip report of spring will not be nearly as exciting as the last trip reports from fall, where I broke into a new number grade for the first time in 7 years.  Actually, compared to the high I felt then, this trip report is more than a little lackluster, perhaps downright boring.  In fact, this trip report is the kind of post that I sometimes am tempted to just skip out on altogether.  But the reality is, THIS kind of trip report is what happens the majority of the time for all of us.  Lots of try hard, lots of failure, and juuuust enough success to keep the stoke high enough on the psych-meter.  

That said, the first real climbing trip of the season can be summed up like this – it was spring, then it was winter, then it was spring again.  We knew going in that we would have 1 bad day sandwiched in between 2 good days.  We debated back and forth whether the long drive to Kentucky was worth it.  But after months of daydreaming about spring climbing, desperation won out and we went anyway, and of course, made the best of every situation presented to us.  

Day 1 was spent soaking up the sun at the aptly named Solar Collector wall in PMRP.  After training with Power Company Climbing all winter and seeing some pretty good gains in the gym, I was anxious to see how those gains would translate on real rock.  I tied in to Decline of Western Civilization 10a and promptly hang-dogged my way up it.  (To be fair, the rock was still REALLY cold….;) )  My next pitch was decidedly better – I flashed Mona Lisa Overdrive 11b.  Thank goodness for huecos!  Pitch #3 was Buddha Hole 11d.  No send, but I put in a really valiant flash attempt and fell just a couple of moves before hitting the 5.10 jugs.  I felt pretty trashed afterwards so I didn’t get on it again, but looking back, I wish I would have.  Perhaps decisions like that should not be made when your forearms are still hard as rocks…

From spring to winter…

After hiking around to check out the (ironically still shaded) Bright Side, we ended up back at Solar Collector, this time by the slabs on the right side.  I was really proud of myself for hanging on for the onsight of Butt Sweat and Tears, but was disappointed to find out it was only 11b, as it had felt a lot more intense than that to me.  Regardless of grade however, it was super fun, although it would probably get more action at the New than in it’s current location (perhaps that’s why I liked it so much!)  Everyone ended their day on Brambly Downslide 10a, including the Big CragKiddo!  While he’s been getting up some mid-10’s at the gym lately, this was by far his hardest outdoor climb to date.  He rested several times, but did all the moves.  Some of them were pretty hard and I was proud of him for sticking with it and not getting frustrated! 

We woke up the next day to snow, which the kids were super excited about.  The snow was forecasted to shift to a cold rain after lunch, so we bundled up and headed out for a snow hike.  Being the nature dorks that we are, we were delighted at all the animal tracks we were able to identify in the snow – deer, rabbit, raccoon, and even fox!  The rest of the day was passed with games, reading, and a trip to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo (if you are into reptiles, you should definitely make a point to visit some time!) 

Day 3 dawned cold but sunny, and we went to Muir Valley.  We spent the first part of the day over at the Inner Sanctum, where CragDaddy onsighted Psyberpunk 11c and I nabbed the flash.  Big C worked his way up Netizen Hacktivist 9+, proclaiming “This is so fun!” at least 4 or 5 times throughout the climb, then we moved over to the Sanctuary, where things started to fall apart a bit.  I got stomped on the opening moves of Immaculate Deception 11d, then came closer to a big flapper than the chains on Jesus Wept 12d.  We shifted around to the now-sunny Indy Wall, where I got draws up on Posse Whipped 12a, a very technical line I’d tried once several years ago.  The movement is very crimpy and sustained, with pretty terrible feet in the crux.  I think I would have had a good shot at it next go, but unfortunately it was getting pretty late in the day and we needed to get on the road, so I didn’t wait nearly long enough before tying in again.  I fell at the end of the crux when my hands got mixed up.  

Huecos make the route go…Mona Lisa Overdrive 11b

So two days of climbing and the best I had to show for it on paper was a couple of mid 11’s.  Again, kinda lackluster compared to the end of last fall.  However.  While I may not PHYSICALLY be where I want to be yet, I was in a really good place MENTALLY.  Many times I start out a new season feeling timid and scared to fall.  It takes me a while to ease in to “trying hard.” But this time around my head game felt great.  I moved confidently and without hesitation, even when my forearms were going numb, and took some good ole try hard falls.  And with the exception of the routes at the Sanctuary, I felt fairly strong…I just got PUMPED!  And I guess for a season opening trip to the Red, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  

Now if only this rain would stop, we could get on with spring and start going to the New!

Netizen Hacktivist 9+

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The Ruchert Motion 5.13a – Grand Finale at the NRG

This fall has featured some pretty goofy weather conditions.  October was hot, November was wet, and December is…perfect?!?  Our NRG season typically wraps up before Thanksgiving.  After that, the days are so short, with frigid mornings and evenings, and nighttime temps that drop below our enjoyable-camping-with-kids threshold.  It’s also not uncommon to contend with snow, so even a stray warm day can end up wet.  Not to mention the holidays are coming, and we want to focus on that!  But Thanksgiving  weekend brought fantastic weather we couldn’t pass up…and we both put good work in on The Ruchert Motion 13a.  And when we saw that the forecast was just as good for the following weekend, we had to go back and bring our try hard.

The press out move…thankful for every inch!

But the kink in our plans was poor CragDaddy, who rolled his ankle punting off a gym boulder problem just one move away from sending a sick new V13 in our backyard no one knows about and never will because it imploded back into earth upon CragDaddy’s impact. 😉 Thankfully the “incident” turned out to be just a minor sprain, and by the time the weekend rolled around, he was pain-free with just an annoying amount of swelling.  He could toprope all day long…but going “a muerte” on his project still didn’t seem wise.  So unfortunately for him (but very much appreciated by me), the only things he was able to bring to this NRG double bonus weekend were superior belay skills, encouraging pep talks, and camera management skills.   Actually, before you feel too sorry for him, he DID manage to sneak in some try hard on his toprope burns, and I’m confident that he’ll be ready for Ruchert Motion next spring.

But all joking aside, I am very grateful that CragDaddy was still up for making a trip that was undoubtedly more fun for me than it was for him.  I definitely owe him some “support services” time back out there this spring.  

And thankfully, I made it worth his while.  It took 4 go’s, but I finally put it down at the end of Day 1.  My confidence was a rollercoaster all day.  The first burn was a warm-up, and I yarded through all the hard moves – the opening move, a tipped out move in the middle that is hard on my wrist, and the entire crux.  There’s another kinda hard sequence after the crux but it’s not tweaky, so I went for it but came up a little short and took a fall on an extended right shoulder that did not feel great.  It hurt for a few minutes but then seemed fine (and left me thankful that I’ve been doing all those little stabilizing exercises on the regular!)  Once I clipped the chains, my fingers were a lot warmer and I rehearsed all the hard moves as I lowered.  

My favorite kidcrushers.

My 2nd burn felt awesome.  I made it all the way to the crux without too much difficulty. Things were actually going so well that I unknowingly got my left foot up higher than I had been, which threw off my balance at the end of the crux, and my right hand slipped off a split second before I could move it to the next hold.  After a quick hang, I finished it up, and lowered off feeling very optimistic.

But my 3rd go I didn’t even make it to the crux.  I fell in the reachy 11+ section on the move that is hard on my wrist.  This particular move has me completely pressed out to my fingertips, then making a desperate pop to a jug.  I played around with some different beta, and found a sequence that was a little higher percentage.  The only down side to the new beta was that it was harder on the skin, which at this point, was at a premium thanks to that sharp little hold I dry fired off of on my previous burn.  Rather than exfoliating my finger tip any more by trying the crux on a non-send burn, I opted to just come down rather than rehearse it again, since splitting a tip would mean game over for the day.  Confidence plummeted.  

Big C in action.

4th go.  The opening move, the one that thwarted me all but twice last weekend, continued to go well.  I winced as I cranked out the new beta for the press out move, but was relieved when I glanced down at my finger tip and didn’t see any blood.  There’s a great rest stance after that, and I stayed there a good long while.  I moved through the next moves smoothly, made the clip, and entered the crux traverse.  The holds are heinously small, so I went as quickly as I could.  I was red-lining as I got my feet up to make the big exit move to the jug, but I held on for all I was worth and stuck the hold!  

Exiting the crux

All that was left between me and the last 20 feet of 5.10 land was the kinda hard traverse I’d fell at the end of on my warm-up.  The move getting into this traverse is never smooth for me.  The holds are an easy reach for CragDaddy, but it’s very awkward for me to get both hands established on the traverse holds, so I have to smear my foot on a very slippery hold and do a weird move that we christened the “donkey kick.”  Every time I do it, I’m afraid that foot is going to blow off, but it never did…until this time!  Luckily, it was just after both hands were on, so I managed to hang on.

The only other issue came in 5.10 land when I thought CragDaddy was short roping me, but it turned out to be my tail knot stuck in the bottom biner of the quickdraw.  ?!?  Never had that happen, never heard of it happening, but thankfully it was an easy fix. 

And…woohoo!  A perfect end to a fabulous fall climbing season!  Actually to be accurate, it wasn’t quite the end yet.  We climbed the next day too – CragKiddo got a chance to crush at the Meadow, and I got a chance for revenge on Stretch Armstrong 12a, the route I’d chickened out on the previous week.  CragDaddy looked longingly at Team Machine 12a, the route he’d “toprope sent” the previous week, but decided not to risk a lead fall, especially on that particular line, as its scary even with two good feet.

It’s pretty difficult to get good pictures when it’s just us and the kids, but CragDaddy did manage to set our camera up in a nearby tree to get some video footage.  Full disclosure, it’s not great – in order to get the whole route we had to shoot vertically.  And I climb painfully slow so it’s not exciting at all.  But it at least captures the moves and rad-ness of the line.  The zoomed in crux shots were taken on the sending go, but the rest of the footage is from other burns throughout the day.  We put it to music to make it less boring and also drown out the kids talking a little bit.  If you’d like to check it out, go here.  (And please excuse the try hard sounds on the opening move…)

I hope everyone had a great climbing season, and since it’ll probably be pretty quiet on the blog around here until after the new year, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season!  See you in 2018 and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

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NRG at Thanksgiving

Did your post-Thanksgiving plans include shop til you drop or #optoutside?  As you might have guessed, ours involved the latter.  The forecast was beautiful for the early part of last weekend, so we squeezed in a quick visit to our favorite east coast climbing destination for a half day Friday and full day Saturday.  

Reachy 11+ section on Ruchert Motion 13a

All we had time for on Friday afternoon was a couple of pitches each at Bridge Buttress, and despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t pull anything together.  I tackled an old nemesis of mine – Stretch Armstrong 12a, while CragDaddy tried his hand at Team Machine, also 12a.  I’d been on Stretch before a handful of times, but never felt close to sending it.  The route is very appropriately named, and my crazy beta was far too desperate to link on point.  This time however, I was able to work out a slightly different sequence that felt a lot more doable.  It was very committing, and felt every bit of 12b/c, but it seemed like it would work.  Unfortunately, when my turn was up again, I just couldn’t get the job done.  The kids started arguing, the sun never quite came around so my hands got really cold, one kid started crying, I wasted a lot of energy trying to remember a sequence down low, other kid starts crying, and so on and so forth.  By the time I got to the crux, my head was far too distracted to commit to the moves.  I hung, then did the moves first try.  Ugh.  

The 1st world problem woes continued with CragDaddy’s turn on Team Machine.  Due to fading light, cranky kids, and several scary sections, he opted to toprope rather than lead it.  The crux had taken him forever on round 1, and he figured it was still so low percentage he might as well toprope it…but of course he did it clean, earning him the dreaded “toprope-send.”  Womp womp.  

CragDaddy, aka “toprope toughguy”

But despite the fruitlessness of our Friday endeavors, everyone woke up Saturday in good spirits, ready for the main event.  For over a year, we’d been eyeing The Ruchert Motion 13a out at Beauty Mountain.  With newfound confidence from our last couple of trips to Hidden Valley, I was ready to give it a whirl.  Conditions were darn near perfect – low 40’s in the morning, low 50’s by afternoon, plenty of sun at the base of the cliff for the kids to “bask” in.  (During the morning hours, they laid around on the rocks pretending to be king cobras waking up from hibernation.)  

My first run, however, was far from perfect, and I was actually pretty discouraged.  In hindsight, it probably would have made more sense to warm-up on something else first, but psych was high so we jumped right in, knowing it would take us a while to get the draws in. The Mountain Project entry describing the first few bolts as “reachy 11+” also played heavily into our decision to skip a proper warm-up…but that description proved to be wildly inaccurate, at least for CragDaddy and me.  

You know, just bassssking around at the crag.

After flailing around for about 15 minutes, I skipped the opening moves and THEN climbed through a couple of bolts worth of what I could see described as reachy 11+.  Then came the crux, and my first attempts were dismal.  I stick-clipped my way through, then flailed through the next sequence that, while easier than the crux, was still pretty hard.  The last 20 feet was really fun 5.10 climbing (the kind that makes for a great, actual warm-up), but by the time I got to the top I was more exhausted than warmed up, and lowered straight down without trying any of the moves again.  

CragDaddy’s experience was similar, and when he got down, we took a nice long break to eat leftover pizza and “bask” with our King Cobra children.  The kids then moved to a different game involving catching “crabs” on an island boulder stranded in a sea of leaves, so at CragDaddy’s encouragement, I took the opportunity to have second go on Ruchert.  This run was decidedly better.  I still couldn’t touch the first move, but my fingers were a lot more warmed up by this point, and and I WAS able to do the crux moves. 

Psych.

 

I was feeling very encouraged after my 3rd burn, especially when I actually was able to do the first move when I tried it again on the way down!  My 4th go, however, was the best yet – I only hung in two spots!  (And it should have been just one, but I botched a foot in one of the reachy moves before the crux.)  When I got to the crux I was pretty tired and starting to get a little sloppy with my feet, but I managed to get through it after a few tries, and was then able to shake out enough post-crux to finish the climb clean.  

The weather was forecasted to be drastically colder and cloudier on Sunday, so we headed back home Saturday night.  Judging by how wrecked my arms felt when I tried to rake leaves the next day, it was the best decision!  But that said…it feels awesome to have something “in the hopper” at the New again!  So many times I feel like I have such a love/hate relationship with the New because of all the times I get shut down on long moves.  But this one is gonna go down!  And hopefully sooner rather than later! Fingers crossed for this weekend, because if it doesn’t go down Saturday or Sunday, I’m gonna have to wait til spring!  

 

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Mom Guilt and Type 2 Fun…aka Making Lemonade

“Well, this sure is some slip-sliding fun!” I said with my best fake smile to both of my kids as we made our way down the gully to the base of the cliff.  We’d been hiking for about an hour along a trail that featured a steep incline, several hundred wooden steps, and LOTS of wet leaves.  Our pace had been slow but consistent, in a cold, misty drizzle that didn’t look like it had any intention of letting up any time soon, despite what the radar/forecast showed on my phone.  We were on our way to meet up with a photographer friend of mine who wanted to get some rad “climber amidst fall foliage” photos at our local crag.  Actually, we were supposed to have gone out there the day before… but had rescheduled for the following day since it was raining off and on and “conditions would be better tomorrow.”  (Said in quotes because conditions were in fact no drier, and 20 degrees colder.)  

But anyway, after I flashed my best fake smile to the kiddos there was silence for a couple of seconds.  Then my oldest looks up and says, “This is actually not that fun.”  He then proceeds to burst out laughing, at which point his younger sister quickly follows suit.  I wasn’t sure how to read his comment…He was right, of course.  Maneuvering around slick, leaf-laden rocks was “actually not that fun.”  But why were they laughing?  Their demeanor was genuine and silly, not sarcastic.  Perhaps the great alpinist Mark Twight’s famous words “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” can apply to children as well as grown-ups?

Our weather woes continued once we met up with Bryan Miller of Fixed Line Media, and our friend Robert, whom Bryan had somehow convinced to meet us out there.  “Splitter conditions, right?!?” Bryan said (now that WAS sarcasm.)  Conditions were downright miserable.  While it was no longer actively raining, the fog was so thick you could hardly make out any trees, let alone delicate fall colors.  But what else could we do…here we all were, and the rock was (mostly) dry and actually significantly warmer than the air temperature.  Let’s take some pictures! 

In case you were wondering, there are 335 stairs…we counted.

I got the kids established on their blanket, and passed out candy bribes food bags and some toys.  Surprisingly, no one had complained since way back when we first started hiking in (the little one ALWAYS takes a while to get her hiking mojo going.)  Everyone looked warm, happy, and in the process of being well-fed, so I decided to take a warm-up lap while Bryan rigged the ropes on the route he wanted to shoot.  

I was about halfway up when I heard a commotion coming from the kids’ area, followed by my oldest shouting up to me that his sister had peed in her pants.  I looked down to see my youngest with her pants around her ankles.  Sigh.  “Mommy, I’m cold!  I need you to snuggle me!”  she shouted pitifully, extending her arms up as high as she could, as if she could pluck me from the wall.  That’s when the mom-guilt started in…”Why are we out here?!?!?  What mother takes her children out in conditions like this!?!?” I berated myself inwardly while I outwardly tried to direct big brother to the bag of spare clothes on the ground (as my belayer patiently waited.)  

I lowered as soon as I could and put fresh clothes on my daughter (since of course the only step towards clean and dry clothes that had been made while I was up was the taking off of her shoes…which did NOT help with the cold situation.)  After dry clothes and the requested amount of snuggles it was time to shoot photos.  I managed to release myself from the snuggler’s grasp in exchange for my soft shell AND puffy jacket.  The route Bryan had chosen to photograph was Energy Czar 10d, for the aesthetics of it’s features, as well as the backdrop behind it (the latter of which was completely invisible at this point due to fog.)  He’d wanted me to do 2 laps, so that he could shoot from both sides of the route.  The route is not very tall, and I climbed fairly quickly, but by the time I was starting up on lap 2, youngest child was no longer satisfied with snuggling with the “mommy jackets.”  The mom-guilt continued to build.  I pictured my daughter lying on the couch in her therapist’s office as an adult, recounting the time I abandoned her on a blanket in the cold, wet woods to scale a cliff.  

Z’s demeanor improved dramatically the moment I got down, but only so long as she was attached to my lap, which made packing up difficult at best.  By the time we were ready to hike back out my inner monologue had me convinced that I was an unfit mother for my children and that DSS could potentially be waiting for me in the parking lot.  But then we started hiking.  

Within 5 minutes we were back at the soggy, leafy scramble that had sparked my “slip-sliding fun” comment.  The giggling started up again.  Along with some very melodramatic “whoa-oa-oa-oah’s!!!!!” that turned into even louder giggles.  Both children transformed into Mexican jumping beans on the wooden staircase, and by the time my wobbly knees got down to the wider, main part of the trail, they were “gone.”  Said in quotations, because I could clearly see my 3 year old about 30 feet away, standing very still behind a tree that covered up approximately one third of her body, with her eyes fixated on a large rock that had a suspicious flash of orange puffy exposed on the far side of it that looked remarkably like big brother’s jacket.

“WHERE DID MY CHILDREN GO?!?”  I speculated loudly as I kept walking.  More giggling ensued.  “I can’t find them anywhere?!?”  I said, and paused.  Wait for it….

“BOO!”  They jumped out from behind their respective hiding places like a flock of wild banshees, hooting and hollering in circles around me for a few moments before taking off again to find another place to hide.  And so the hike went, for the next 30 minutes.  Their grand finale was when they caught glimpse of our friends, whom we hadn’t waited for to hike out, knowing that they would catch up with us at some point.  Both kids dove into opposite directions off the trail into a drainage ditch.  The stayed there for several minutes as our friends approached, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal themselves.  The moment finally came, and the last section of hike before the parking lot was littered with laughter on all sides.  

As our friends drove away and I loaded my crew into the car, I looked at the two dirty, happy faces smiling back at me and my heart overflowed with gratitude.  Gratitude for these little people who turned what should have been a miserable afternoon into a happy walk in the woods.  Gratitude for the chance to make memories with these people, even especially the type 2 fun memories that we’ll retell again and again, maybe even to their children’s children one day.  And you know what?  As they chatterboxed the entire way home, that mom guilt started to slowly but surely fade away.  Clearly none of us were any worse for the wear after our wetter-and-colder-than-expected adventure.  In fact, one could make an argument that we were even better off!

When I remember to look at life through those gratitude lenses, I become a lot less worried about being (or rather NOT being) a perfect mom.  While I am a far from perfect mom, I can say without any doubt that I am the perfect mom for MY kids.  And while they are most definitely not perfect kids, they are the perfect kids for ME.  And I hope that we always help each other remember how to make lemonade out of those sour lemon kinda days!

Many thanks to Bryan Miller for the photos, Robert Hutchins for the belays, and to both for academy award winning death scenes after being shot by a 7 year old with a capgun…all 457 times.  All things considered, I’d say the pictures didn’t turn out half bad!  (Oh, and if you liked this, you might also like this one from the archives – “Type 2 Mountain Biking Fun with a 4 Year old.”)  

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