My muscles are still sore and my anxiety still high today as I recall the Saturday morning adventure that began with a 6am call from my all-too-cheerful boyfriend. “You won’t be ready for Whitney,” he warned when I told him I was too tired to go. Somehow this statement dragged me out of bed and got me to pack the “Adventure Packs” for my two children.
We got our adventure packs for them last year to plan for our annual Yosemite trip. Each child has his/her own backpack. With 6 kids that we usually travel with (his two, my two and my niece and nephew) we learned early on that it was best if they all had the same things in different colors. Each came with a steel water bottle and is “bladder ready”. This year we will buy them all bladders because the water bottles are hazardous to the health of those beneath our children on hikes with ledges. . . . The goal of the Adventure Pack is to enable them to carry their basic supplies. Each child got their own travel first aid kit and are expected to carry their own food, water and sweatshirt. The packs also help if they collect treasures along the way or choose to bring a camera. This solves the problem of the mom with a hundred rocks in her pockets.
Mt. Baldy a summit is at 10k feet. I didn’t really understand the implications of this fact even though I had been told it was higher elevation. I hadn’t heard about altitude sickness, hadn’t studied about the effect it could have on my family.
So, we all piled into the car, my son, 11 and daughter 9 and service animal, the 3 year old Chihuahua-terrier, Shivers, and headed up the I-15 to the I-10. The entrance to the canyon can be found by taking Mountain or Benson until you get away from the city. We met my boyfriend and his children, 13 and 9 at Manker Flats.
We arrived and decided that since it was the first big hike of the season with the kids, we would take the chair lift up the first mile or so and conserve energy. This was quite the ordeal as none of the kids had been on a chair lift like this before, plus I had my dog with me. The two eldest children volunteered to go together so the two youngest could ride with a parent. This worked out well since the lift was so tall (from anticipation of snow) the younger children needed to be lifted up.
I personally would have rather hiked! My dog, usually available to comfort me when I am distressed (he is a responder) was a disaster. I spent a lot of energy calming his quaking body and giving him kisses. He has a soft spot for squirrels and I thought all kinds of awful thoughts when one shrieked at us and just knew he was trying to plot out how he was going to get down off that lift to go sniff that squirrel!
It was the slowest lift of all time. But finally, we got off and began our ascent.
Hiking with kids is always interesting. You never know how each of them will be feeling and how they are going to react to the rigors of step after step that is keeping them away from their video games. Luckily, in this day, no two ever were upset at the same time. We did have some tears about a quarter of the way in. He was certain we had hiked longer than a mile, and was disappointed to learn we still had 3 more like that to go.
The lift had taken us up to about 8,000 feet. Giving us 2000 feet to climb in 3.5 miles approximately. About half way there my son, who has allergic asthma, began to complain of headaches and fatigue, while my daughter was so far up ahead of us that I couldn’t see her at times. Eli and I took turns staying back with the boys while the other ran up ahead to check on the girls.
The slow pace irritated the girls, who could be seen with Shivers, steadily progressing up the switchbacks. Having not yet learned hiker etiquette, my daughter had no patience with her brother’s frequent rests.
The other hikers were incredibly kind and supportive, encouraging and “high-5″ing the kids as they passed. Shivers got his fair share of praise as well. The community spirit was strong and it helped us all make it slowly and breathlessly to the top.