Today when I got home from work, I was greeted by Benjamin who smiled and I knew instantly that he wanted something. But what? It did not take him long to blurt out, "Wanna' go for a hike?" My inner response is, "No, not really." He's been wanting to hike a local mountain, Crowder's Mountain, for some time now but with this summer being in the high 90's to triple digits, I've told him we'd do it when it was cooler. Today it's 88 degrees, so how could I resist? (Yes, there is a twinge of sarcasm in that), but still, I relented. Benjamin was thrilled and as I changed clothes, he fixed us some food to take for a picnic (peanut butter sandwiches, apples, grapes, chips, and water).
It's a short drive to the mountain and we stopped at a picnic spot to eat our food. It was nice to sit in the shade, eat, and listen to him talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. When we'd finished and disposed of our trash, we went to the trails. Now there are 12 different trails one can take. They range from easy to strenuous. Which do you think he chose? Well, as we all know, "easy is for babies." I wanted to add, "And 44 year olds who don't go hiking all that often."
As we hiked up the mountain, I kept reminding myself of why I was doing this: for my son. Spending time with him can be some of the best and most rewarding for both of us. We share and laugh and, because Mommy's not with us, we can engage in lower body humor that boys like. At the start of the hike, Benjamin started off way ahead of me, hurrying up the path, and calling back, "Come on, Papa!" I knew better and paced myself. What I had to catch myself from doing was simply watching the path and not looking around me at the scenery, something I do too often in my daily life where the tasks at hand crowd out simple pleasures.
When we reached the mile marker, we took our first rest and drank water from the water bottle. We sat on some rocks and talked a bit more. He told me about previous hiking trips he'd taken with his friend Shane on this mountain. I liked how happy he was to be out here in nature with me. After a moment, he was ready to start back on the trail. Once again, he took the lead.
In my head, I sang John Denver songs.
The further we got and the steeper the inclines, the more I realized how infrequently I really did stuff like this. And I began to wonder how far up the top of this mountain really was. The higher we climbed, the more my son encouraged me with, "Come on, Papa. Not much further! (How many "not much furthers" can a person believe?) You can do it!" I kept making references to Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings. He was so happy when we made it to the top of Crowder's Mountain - just as I would be so happy when we made it back down.
The climb down was, in some ways, harder than the climb down, though we did it by making up silly songs to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain." One of my all time favorite sounds is my son laughing. From the very first time I made him laugh, I loved hearing him do it. This was no exception. We both laughed and sang loudly in our off-tune voices. When we got back to the car, he looked at the back of my shirt and asked, "Did you pour water down your back?" No, that's sweat. "Wow! You're soaked!" After getting in the car, he first told me to "Crank up the AC," before he added, "I always have a great time with you, Papa." That made the whole climb worth it.