Saturday, March 1, 2014

What Did I Expect?

Happy First Day of March!

Each new month feels like a fresh start to me. Happy New Month! We're another day closer to a new season, and March is marching us away from winter, and toward spring. I always try to live in the moment; it's my favorite challenge, but knowing a new season is approaching always makes me a little giddy about changes. Soon we'll be seeing daffodils, tulips, and crocuses pushing up their greenery through the crust of the earth, and the rains will come, and my world will be full of robins, new blossoms, and greening trees and grass. I love the consistency of one season leading into another. I love knowing what to expect.

When I think of the month of March, I think of my firstborn son who was born on March 3,1987. In the late eighties, a popular book for pregnant mothers was What to Expect When You're Expecting. I devoured that book. I always like to know what I'm up against when I'm having a new experience, and in 1987, being pregnant was definitely a new experience.

Last month, Bridger and I headed to Saint George to go hiking with Dylan. Poor Dylan.  The responsibility of finding decent hiking trails for us often falls to him when we head to Saint George.  It's his back yard, after all. Since I had wrecked my knee skiing with Bridger the previous weekend, Dylan wanted to make sure I was up for the five mile trail he'd found that led to the Red Mountain overlook. That should be great, I assured him. I'd done a six-miler a couple of days before, just to make sure I was up for hiking with the boys. I prepared myself mentally for spending a good hour or so hiking up, and then down, Red Mountain.

Keep in mind, I'd been told we were going five miles. That's what I was EXPECTING.

We drove out of Saint George, heading to Snow Canyon. After we parked, the boys and I assembled our hydration packs, and put a leash on our Boston Terrier. I'd forgotten my knee brace, but the climb in elevation wasn't going to be too drastic. We were good to go.

As the trail starts out, it passes between two barbed-wire fences on either side. It's quite sandy, so we were grateful that the melting snow had dampened the ground. Hiking in the sandy desert can be a pain when you have to stop often to dump the sand collecting in your shoes. We would be spared of that annoying task today. February is a great time to hike in Saint George; a light jacket and some water are all that is needed. Dylan was in shorts, so you know the weather was mild.

I'm so easily entertained. I thought the warning to hang gliders seemed a little silly, but I guess the die-hards would be tempted to haul their gear up the trail, and hang glide down the canyon. I'm doing great just getting myself and a couple of quarts of water up there.

My boys are very playful. Both of them have a childlike nature that entertains me. Dylan, at 26, is ten years older than Bridger. They could've been twelve and two that day. I watched as the boys pretended the sand was hot lava, and they leaped from rock to rock, and root to root, making sure their shoes didn't touch the "lava." I just focused on foot placement, making sure to step carefully up the rocks that were like stairs. I couldn't be bothered with hot lava.

Whenever I hike with the boys, I have plenty of opportunities to catch up to their long-legged hiking. They stop. Often. Most of the time, I find them squatting in the middle of the trail, investigating things they find fascinating. They love trying to figure out what animals have passed through the area by studying footprints, scat, hairs caught on brush and fences, and broken branches. They stop to get a better look at insects and spiders.

Dylan's favorite thing is to entertain us with his silliness. "Now this here," he begins, pointing at a small glob of white substance near a rock on the trail, "is evidence of a homo sapien who has recently passed through this area. You can tell by the indentations in this white substance that the human is a young male, with a cavity." We are staring at a discarded, previously chewed, wad of gum.

In my mind, I know that a five mile hike with a climb in elevation is probably going to take us about an hour and a half. When we reached the summit, and the beautiful overlook, we'd been hiking close to 90 minutes. You do the math. We'd already done our hike, according to my knee. We still needed to hike back down to our car. Hmmm...

We took a break, drinking water and eating our Kind fruit and nut bars. We took pictures of Snow Canyon. The fog in the distance, and the overcast day didn't do the view justice. It was breathtaking. While we were enjoying the view, Dylan told us he'd rather not hike between the barbed wire fences on our return trip. He asked if we minded going a different way back. Not at all. I was a little tired, but it was all downhill from the top. What difference did it make which way we went?

The boys investigated a small cave under this rock overhang. The views were spectacular, and helped take my mind off of the exertion of our uphill climb, and then later, our descent.

It's weird being the parent of adult children. I trust Dylan completely when we're outdoors. I look to him for guidance. There was a small part of me, the tired and slightly aching part of me, that began to question his judgment as I watched him run ahead, looking for signs of where we should go, that made me a little nervous. The still present snow showed that no one else had come this way. On our way up, we'd noticed tracks left behind by other hikers and their dogs. We were pioneering our own little trail. This probably thrilled Dylan, who fancies himself to be a mighty tracker and guide, I suspect.

Logically, I knew as long as we were descending the trail, we were going the right way. My boys both have a pretty good sense of direction. At one point, Dylan assured me we only had about another mile to go. "Fifteen, twenty minutes, Denise," I told myself. "You can do that." Thirty minutes later, with no sign of civilization in sight, I began to worry.

Now I'm level-headed enough to know that we weren't in a precarious survival situation. I just know how I get when I become over-tired. I get kind of moody. I whine a little. My temper shortens. I'm like my dad that way. You know those Snickers candy bar commercials that feature Betty White? That's me. When I'm hungry, I'm just not myself. Dylan assured me he had an old Snickers bar in the bottom of his backpack for just such emergencies. I told Dyl it hadn't come to that. Yet.

As we were wandering through the wilderness, I reminded myself that Dylan hikes the deserts of Utah on a regular basis, and so far, he has always made it home. My knee was tired; I was tired. I just wanted some idea of how much longer I had to pretend I was okay with all of this. My expectations were being exceeded. And not in a good way.

One of Dylan's favorite things to do is scare people. I had noticed his getting farther and farther ahead of Bridger and me. Bridge was hanging back, keeping me company, occasionally checking on me. "How're ya doin', Shrink?" Both of my sons call me Shrink much more than they call me Mom. It's a silly story for another time, but that's my nickname with my boys. I assured him I was okay.

Dylan was nowhere in sight. Bridger cupped his hands together, making the sound of a mourning dove with his hand whistle. No return response. We kept hiking. When I stopped to survey the scenery, I detected movement behind us on the trail. Dylan had an impish grin as he peeked out from behind some sagebrush back down the path. He had hidden himself from view, running ahead of us and making a wide turn to backtrack through the brush. I know him; he would've given anything to give out a terrible roar, and fly at us from behind. He is such a kid at heart. As Dylan's little sister can tell you, with Dylan, "When you least expect it, expect it."

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, I could hear the boys discussing which way we needed to go. One felt we should go left, the other right. "Oh, great," I thought.

"Should we split up?" Dylan began to ask.

"NO!" That is the only thing I really knew at that point. We trudged on, following Dylan's lead. I had to trust that his sense of direction wouldn't lead us astray. I didn't want to look at my phone; it would only remind me that we were in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service, and no GPS available in our remote location. And I knew my phone's clock would tell me we had hiked much longer than my anticipated hour and a half.

Dylan is an eternal optimist when he is outdoors. He was singing, and telling jokes. I tried to chuckle at appropriate times, but my cheerfulness was starting to tank. 

And then, EUREKA! We saw the barbed wire fences that lined the trail. Yay! The car was within a mile of that point. Now I could smile, and pick up my pace. Those things are much easier to do when I'm sure I'm on the right path!

That night while I was icing my knee, Dylan did a little more reading about our hike. It turns out we had done an 8.8 mile trail. 

"Hmm...I must've forgotten to factor in the return trip," he laughed. 

Very funny, I thought. Dylan asked if I'd had fun. Yes, of course. Would I do it again, he wanted to know. Well, yes, now that I know what it's like. Give a mom a break. This old girl just likes to know what to expect.

This little guy took it easy the rest of the night, and most of the next day. We wore little Marley out!


  1. Oh, my knees ache just reading your post! I'm glad you made it back in one piece. You're such a good sport! I'll have to call you and get all the Mom Approved hiking tips from you the next time we go to St George. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Toni, thanks for leaving a comment! Dylan has taken me on some phenomenal hikes in Saint George. Let me know.

  2. Such beautiful country! My only real memory of Utah is climbing up to one of the stone arches not far from the highway that took us from the Northwest to Texas for family visits. The arch and the view from there is one of the sites of beauty my child mind holds on to.

    1. I love Arches, any time, but the summer.

  3. I so enjoyed this post. The story and the pictures really brought your hike to life on the page.Thanks so much for sharing this. Your boys sound delightful.
    One request? Inquiring minds want to know the story behind your nickname. Future post?

    1. Melinda, thanks for giving me a story prompt for the next blog entry!

  4. Love this! Thanks for sharing it.


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