Organization was never my gift. It was Tiff’s. I’ll bring the adventure and Tiff can get us packed. As odd as it sounds, I just started packing my own bags for trips three years ago. And the truth is that I sometimes get some help from family friends for that. Trying to remember to pack enough socks and deodorant sends me into my reptilian brain- fight or flight. So I fly.
This past weekend I planned this amazing backpacking experience for me and the kids. A 14-Mile journey along the Pinhoti Trail in the Talladega National Forest. It’s a trip that I’ve taken several times with teenagers and know very well. We hike in 2 miles, stay at a campsite, hike 10 miles, stay at a campsite, and then hike out 2 miles to the car- a three day journey through God’s Country. That 10-miler is a killer, but I thought the kids could make it.
I left my car at the end point, got a ride from a pastor friend from Eastaboga (a real city) to the starting point- Sweetwater Lake. A nice hike beside the lake and into the woods for 2 miles and we were off. No complaints, easy trek, just fun. I breathed in the mountain air and thought, I just don’t do this enough. The kids were enjoying themselves, I kept asking, “Do you love this or what?!” They always responded excitedly. I can’t tell if they really do like backpacking or just loved being on a new adventure with me- but who cares. It was amazing.
We got to our campsite quickly, set up the tent, and went crawfish searching. The water was cool and refreshing after a warm walk- not ideal for backpacking, but perfect nonetheless.
One of the problems with hiking in the heat is that all of the other critters that need the sun come out to play too. After our creek walk, I spent 20-minutes picking ticks off of all of us. Ticks suck. Not to mention, I had to keep an eye out for snakes, which we nearly tripped over on our hike in. Snakes bite. But all was made well by my selection in snacks.
Tiff never let me go grocery shopping. My stomach had this way of dictating what I would buy in light of the list that I had been tasked with. I’d go for milk and butter and return with Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Cookie Dough ice cream and a yo-yo, only to be sent back out for a second run to the store for milk and butter. I kept the yo-yo. Lately, I have no inhibitors on my grocery store purchases. I buy what I want, gain a little weight and a cavity, and eat my fill of sweets. Lucky for my children, my mom does the vast majority of the grocery shopping and meal planning.
But not this time. I’m a snacker, so we had snacks. You have to have calories to burn for the 10-mile hike! I bought chocolate covered granola bars (is that an oximoron?), decadent trail mix, nutter butters, chips ahoy, oreos, gummy bears, ritz pb crackers, and peanut butter M&M’s. Did I mention, I’m a snacker? Around 6pm the snacks had burned through and the kids were ready to eat. They were so excited about eating our freeze dried meals that we brought- spaghetti, lasagna, or chicken and rice. To be honest, the meals are much better than you think. I was so hungry. The way the meals work, you boil water and simply add. Easy as that.
We each selected our meal for the evening. There was even a picnic table at our campsite, 2 miles in the forest. I opened my well planned backpack to get the JetBoil (a piece of equipment to boil water rapidly.) Organization was never my gift. It was Tiff’s. I’ll bring the adventure and Tiff can get us packed. I feel like I had done my part- we were having so much fun! Hiking, snakes, tick removal, creek walks, we played cards, I-Spy, it was brilliant! Except, I couldn’t find the JetBoil. You know, the most important piece of equipment that we had. I looked up at the kids, staring in anticipation of dinner and fed them the news- “I forgot the JetBoil.”
Brayden began to cry. Ungrateful kid. Addyson just walked off. Passive Aggressive child. Carsyn told me it was ok that I was so careless because she “didn’t want me to feel bad.” Meh. And like that, I relinquished my Dad of the Year title.
I quickly gathered the troops and Winston Churchill’d my way through. “Good news and bad news. The good news is that we have food. It’s crap, but we won’t starve. The bad news is that we’re 12 miles from the car and we don’t have an option- in the morning we’re hiking to the car. It’ll take all day, but you can do it.” And with that, we started joking and having fun again. Kids are resilient. Adaptable. What a great way to make a memory- Remember that time we went backpacking and almost starved to death. If I had the ability to plan, I might have designed the oversight.
We slept well and hit the trail at 8am. Full of granola bars and M&M’s, we hiked. And it was beautiful. The kids were amazing. No complaining, just enjoying one another. We talked, and laughed, and played, and I loved every minute of it.
Several times along the way, I couldn’t help but think, This wasn’t the way I planned it. We were supposed to do this together. I bring the adventure and you pack. I’ll lasso the world, you just tell me what to do with it. But those were the best laid plans, and plans change.