Hiking


You're really going to hold onto that for the entire hike, I asked my boy. He gave me a shoulder shrug and the no big deal look. I never litter and I guess I have taught my kids not to litter, but I don't make a habit of picking up trash on the trail and I don't think I ever taught them to do it either. I asked him where he got the idea and he didn't know, so I said okay, but if you pick it up you have to carry it the entire way or until we run into a trash can. I knew from experience that my kids don't like to haul their own stuff, and when I walk them to school I usually end up carrying two backpacks stuffed with books, jackets, and a school-year's worth of accumulated junk/treasures. So, when the boy picked up the trash, I was impressed, but I assumed I would ultimately be carrying the empty juice box.

The hiking was slow, but that was the point. I usually don't have the patience to hike, but with my separated shoulder, I needed to back off the running for at least a week, so I would enlist a combination of my son, my daughter, and my dog to slow me down on the trails.

We talked about school and math problems. I tried to teach him how to add halves like one and a half plus one and a half, but I don't have the patience for that either. We saw a lot of funnel spider webs and spotted some hungry legs waiting patiently in the hole at the bottom of the funnel-shaped web. We saw two red-winged blackbirds, and I think we were both a little disappointed and relieved that we didn't see any rattlesnakes. I love hiking with him because, like most children, he notices the little things, the things right in front of his eyes.

When I run, I tend to go inside myself, even when I'm running through Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon, I have to remind myself to occasionally look up, to look around at the beauty and the vistas. Hiking helps with this, slowing down and appreciating where I am and where each step is landing. A couple of weeks ago during a run, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake that was stretched out across the trail, seeing it at the last possible instant, and dodging what could have been a couple of fangs to the shin. If I were hiking, I would have seen it.

It's not a bad thing to go inside, to be alone with my thoughts on the trail. I usually come back from a run happier. Sometimes I will have come up with some good ideas for work, or a thought that needs to be expanded. But, it's nice to slow down once in awhile, to notice the things a seven year old would see, the beauty at my feet.

As we neared the end of our two hour hike, I noticed that my son was still hanging onto the empty, now crushed, juice box. I then watched as he worked his way down a small, rocky hill to pick up a discarded Jamba Juice cup. He carried both to the trash can at the head of the trail and dumped them. I don't know where he learned this, but it made me optimistic and proud. The hike was on Earth Day, but I don't think that's why he picked up the trash. I'm not sure he even knows what Earth Day is, but I do know that he has a respect for the land, probably more than I have, and he was willing to go beyond the "leave no trace" ethic, without being told or asked, and while I may just come across as a proud dad (which I certainly am), I am grateful for a generation that I hope will respect and value the Earth more than my generation and the previous generations have.

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