We pulled into the empty parking lot at the Pioneer Ridge trailhead. A symphony of snores rose from the backseat of our truck. Thomas and I looked at each other and started to laugh.
The trailhead wasn’t more than 30 miles from our home, but it had taken us five hours to get ready. “I’m exhausted,” I admitted to Thomas.
“Me too!” he said.
The kids had been a terror that morning. Ethan had scaled my bookshelf and smashed a ceramic figurine that was very important to me. When we asked Ethan to say sorry, he had furrowed his eyebrows, pointed his index finger at us, and defiantly said, “No.”
Kyra knocked over her bowl of cereal, splashing milk all over my suede dining chair.
Then, the two of them fought over a sealed plastic cup of diced peaches on my couch. “Mommee, we made a mess but I cleaned it up,” Kyra said as sticky syrup dripped down between the cushions.
“Time to go hiking!” As soon as we woke them, they both started to complain. Kyra didn’t like the gloves Daddy put on her. Ethan refused to wear his jacket, hat, or gloves. He also felt he was too old for the backpack carrier.
Fortunately, I had packed three different styles of gloves, so Kyra found one that put her in the mood for hiking. “Come on guys,” she ordered and started running up the trail. Ethan decided if Big Sister thought this was cool, than he did too. He allowed Daddy to gear him up and ran after his sister, “Wait for DeeDee (Little brother in Chinese.)”
I pulled out my camera and started to shoot a video. This was Ethan’s first time hiking on his own two feet. He was the late bloomer in the family for falling in love with the outdoors. We probably traumatized Ethan at one-month-old, when we nursed and changed him on the edge of Mount Healy while Kyra rolled cars down the steep trail towards his face, screaming “Whee!”
Ethan waddled up to the first log step. It took him a long time to crawl over it. When he finally stood up, the dried leaves on the trail made his footing unstable. “Wooooah. Help me Mommee.”
I was still filming, so my husband gave Ethan a hand. He looked up at his father pitifully and said, “Help me Daddee.”
But when Thomas asked him whether he wanted to sit in the backpack, Ethan said, “Nope.”
I lingered behind, enjoying this scene: Father and son walking hand-in-hand. My daughter a brown speeding blur up ahead on the winding steep trail. Leaves embellishing their bodies with glints of gold.
This was how we adventure travelled now.
When I caught up to my family, Thomas struggled with stuffing Ethan into the backpack carrier. Kyra sat on a fallen tree with her arms crossed. “I need some snacks. I need energy.”
A nearby trail marker indicated that we had only gone 200 feet. The first of four picnic tables, which offered panoramic views of Marcus Baker, Denali, Mount Goode, and Knik Glacier, was about 11,000 feet away. I handed each kid a bag of organic fruit snacks and hurried us along.
When I had hiked this trail with my friend Erica and her dog, we fell several times on the slick muddy slopes and barely reached the first picnic table perched on the side of Pioneer Ridge around 2,000 feet in elevation. So, I had my doubts about bringing the kids. I guess I am not as brave as my mother who took us everywhere no matter how kid unfriendly or dangerous it was. But Thomas convinced me that it would be fun to bring the kids. And I thought, maybe, we could capture that Christmas card photo that showcased why we call Alaska our home.
About half a mile away from our goal, Ethan freaked out. We changed his diaper and fed him, but instead he just cried harder.
“That’s it. We’re turning back,” Thomas announced.
“But, we’re so close. You can see a twenty-six mile long glacier up there!” I said.
“Let’s go!” Kyra yelled. Reluctantly, we turned her around and my little trooper insisted on leading us down in a similar fashion to the way she led us up: No tears except when Thomas or I got in front of her.
Later, after I swallowed my disappointment, I realized that in Kyra’s eyes, she successfully led the family up and down the highest mountain she’s ever climbed before. Even though she fell every few steps, she bragged about her collection of rocks and twigs and how climbing this mountain was better than school.
How do you adventure travel with your kids? And have you been disappointed or surprised with the outcome?