Today I showed Cordelia that I can indeed hike with the best of them. I went on a hike with my sister, her girls, Max and Caroline. Max has been delighting us this last month with almost constant running. I wanted to take advantage of his increased stamina and try a short hike. We anticipated his disapproval of this idea, since he dislikes anything new. To combat this I talked a lot about how Yoda, from Star Wars, uses a walking stick and how Yoda likes to hike. That worked to a degree, but as we got closer to the day of the hike Max got quite worked up and started crying, insisting he would not like hiking. I had him watch a few You Tube videos of kids hiking, when he indeed saw big sticks were involved, he became interested and calmed down.
We all started out with very realistic expectations. We figured this outing could last as little as 10 minutes, so we selected a trail not too far from our houses. However, my sister Carrie, had a few tricks up her sleeve that made all the difference. She is a dog trainer by profession and she brought along one of her dogs, Spicy. Spicy was outfitted with a vest with a handle on it and she attached what looked like a water skiing pole to the vest. Max thought this was really neat and he wanted to hold onto the pole. This allowed Spicy to lead Max and kept Max focused on the trail. He still desired a walking stick, so I found one and carried it for him the whole time. Max insisted we bring the stick home as a memento.
The girls had a blast and they were in the lead during the whole hike. I think they covered twice as much ground as the rest of us, as they would run ahead and then circle back. Those three love to be with each other! I think having Spicy along helped Max not feel left out, as he often can feel, since the girls are so close in age and interests.
My niece Clementine has an interest in plants and she carried a field guide with her in her pack. I could see a glint in Caroline's eyes, she was sizing up her cousin's pink hiking backpack with cool built in water bladder and her stash of field guides. I don't think she will accept my sandal wearing, museum "hikes" any longer!
Max enjoyed himself so much and he had my sister and I in stitches as he talked incessantly. At one point he was commenting on the rocks he was walking over and Carrie asked if he had climbed over rocks before. His reply: "Yes, I climbed over a chair at Nana's house once." Really, I do take my kids out doors, really I do! I don't know why he feels chairs and rocks are the same!
Carrie suggested we turn around before we all felt tired. Max insisted he was not tired. But we knew he was, especially when he started to slow down with his rapid conversation. Max's mouth and body often go at the same speed these days. The trail had been a upward climb and as we headed back down Max needed Spicy more than ever. He often had to hold onto the vest handle to keep himself stable. Max only fell twice, which is amazing considering the terrain we were hiking.
We ended up hiking for almost an hour, which was so much more than I expected. I don't know how it would have gone if we had not had Spicy with us. Spicy set a pace for Max and also kept him stable. It was so touching to watch as Spicy continually turned back to check on Max. Max's dog allergies has kept our house pet free, but I am so thankful that we are still able to involve dogs in his life.
Our hike today was wonderful! I can't get over how well Max did! The beautiful weather, my sister's creative ideas, and the happy attitudes of my nieces made it a perfect first hike for Max, and first "real" hike for Caroline. We all went home happy and tired. Later in the evening I heard Max saying, "I am like Yoda, I like to hike...yes just like Yoda." And then I realized, Yoda doesn't even wear shoes. But if he did, I think Yoda would wear sandals.