Monday, March 29, 2010

A Woman's Guide to hiking in the Black Hills with kids

It seems that a little spring has arrived here in South Dakota. I say a little because we all know that April and May still bring snow each year. Last year we had 3 blizzards in 10 days at the beginning of May. Since it was nice for yesterday at least we decided to take the kiddos hiking in the forest close to our house. Here are some tips for preparing for and enjoying a hike with kids from the woman's perspective of course.

First, MAKE A DECISION! It will take at least 30 minutes to decide what area to head for. After much discussion, indecision and arguing finally come to a united decision. One that will work for everyone. Until you get in the car and the man changes his mind.

Second, get everyone dressed and ready for whatever the weather is going to throw at you. So, jeans and t-shirts to start with. Then also pack the hoodies, heavy coats and hats and gloves because you know that the temperature can drop by 1,000 degrees in 2 seconds in the hills. After you have gathered it all up, the argument about who is going to haul all this stuff can begin.

Then begins THE most important decision-making involved. Snacks. I personally like to pack at least 3 of everything. One for each of the kids. But when it comes to fruit, they all like different things. So, in goes the last banana and a couple of oranges. The apples continue to sit forlorn in the bowl waiting for the other more popular fruit to disappear. Good thing they keep longer. Also, some crackers and a bag of pretzels. And some string cheese. Oh, and there are only a few fruit loops left. Grab those. And I think I still have some raisins in my purse. That should cover us. We'll probably be gone less than 2 hours. Wait. Maybe some baby carrots. Those would be good too. And don't forget the water bottles. Since my husband actually drinks tap water, I make sure to pack some of the filtered variety for us more civilized folks. Enter another argument about who is going to carry all THIS stuff.

Now it's time to get in the car. While you were gathering the necessary provisions inside, your husband was busy packing his things. Which are, of course, mostly unimportant unless we somehow get lost within the 20 yards that we will end up venturing from the car or encounter a band of heavily armed rogue Boy Scouts. This movie quote from "The Incredibles" always pops into my head-"luck favors the prepared, dahling."

So, now you are on the road headed in the completely opposite direction of the route previously agreed upon (see step 1). Wow! There are lots of people out in the Black Hills when it gets warm. Great minds think alike I guess. So, this changes things. Mainly because husbands are anti-social and do not want to even catch a whiff of another hiker within 10 miles of where you will be. If you want to be alone while hiking, follow my lead. Get out the ginormous and completely confusing topo map of the forest. Stare at the map for at least 5 minutes before you realize that it's upside down. Yell at your husband to pay attention to the road instead of the map while he yells back that you are the worst map-reader in the history of the world. He's right. Pull over, hand over the map to someone more qualified. Sit and stew over your ineptitude, but secretly be grateful that you no longer have to scramble your brains looking at that ridiculous map. Finally find the teeniest, most treacherous road on the map and head that way. Be sure to have your 4-wheel drive ready because no road is too undriveable. Like my friend Jeff told us once as we were driving over boulders bigger than my house in a dark canyon in Southern Arizona-- never buy a used car from us. Scrape your way uphill only to realize that someone else has the same topo map. Turn around by inches and scrape your way back down the hill and make your way to the next most treacherous road on the map. Whew! No one there.

The next step is to unload everyone out of the car including the children who are, by now, asleep. Then it's off to find a spot for everyone to pee. It never fails that as soon as you get to the middle of nowhere, farther from a bathroom than you have ever been, someone has to pee. Or, um, something else. Scare away any spiders or other creepy-crawlies because the girls will refuse to squat anywhere near where a spider has ever crawled. While you are doing that your husband will be getting his pack ready. Unfortunately he will pack everything he brought along and "forget" to pack the carefully selected snacks, hats, gloves, and other necessities.

Finally you are on your way! For about 10 seconds. This is when the whining begins. "How far do we have to walk?" "I'm tired." " Can you carry me?" These are the ONLY wonderful sounds of nature that you will hear because the kids' noise will have scared away any wildlife that you may have encountered. They will not understand of course and will drive you mad with faux sightings of everything from birds to giant man-eating bears. Ah, bears. That brings us to another important point. There are no bears in the Black Hills. Although, according to one of my daughters, whose nickname is coincidentally Katie-Bear, God told her that there were lots of bears in this forest and they are apparently just waiting to rip off your face. Take it or leave it. She's 4. Continue along at a glacial pace with the children trailing 1/4 of a mile behind wailing that their legs are too tired to walk anymore. Really? I can still see the car from here. As you make your way along the trail, try to take in the fresh air as deeply as possible while you can still breathe normally. Because in a couple of minutes, this trail is going to lead directly up the largest "hill" you have ever seen. Your pack mule, I mean, husband will be so far ahead of you and the children that you will not be able to scream to him that you are ready to turn around. And so, dragging the children, you will finally reach the top of the "hill" where your husband has already found a nice spot to sit. On a log. On a cliff. As you scramble to determine a boundary that your kids can absolutely, positively not cross or they will be in serious trouble, missy!, your husband will have unpacked the most valuable item in his possession. The BB gun. Much squealing will ensue. While you try to keep the 2 year old demon-child from flinging himself off of the cliff, your lovely husband will be the BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD!! The bag of BB's exhausted, the children will reluctantly agree to leave the edge of the world and head back to the car. Except they want to be carried. Ignore the whining and pleading for a while until your ears begin to bleed. Then, give in and carry them the rest of the way. Which is pretty much all the way. At least it's downhill. Someone will suggest a game of "I Spy" to which you will reply, "That's a great idea!" Then, looking around at the forest you will realize that it's not such a great idea because there is really nothing to spy. After a rousing 5-minute-long game of "I Spy" where every answer was "is it a tree?" one or more kids will again have to use the bathroom. The trip back to the car fortunately does not take as long as the trip up because you are carrying the children and moving slightly faster than a snail's pace. When you reach the car everyone will be clamoring for a snack so you will slowly and clearly recite the menu at least 75 times until decisions have been reached. After you repeat that there are no candy bars for the 100th time, understanding will begin to dawn. Of course, since there is only one banana, all the kids will want a banana. Heaven forbid you try to break the thing into 3 pieces because then NO ONE will want it. Settled in with their inferior snacks, the kids will watch as you eat the banana. Ha! Then you can be on the road again.

When you get home, your entire family will be starving to death! Really. They've never been this hungry before. They will eat anything. Anything! So, being the great mother that you are, you will slave away in the kitchen for at least 10 minutes making a microwave dinner for them that they will absolutely never eat in a million gazillion years. Then, as your husband settles into the couch to watch the countdown to the NFL draft (oooooh, exciting!) you will run the bath for the kids, undress them and physically place them in the tub while they scream, then do the dishes, unpack the hiking stuff, pick up the house, wash the kid's hair, dry them, clean the toys from the tub, get them lotioned up and in their jammies, put into bed and books read, and throw some laundry in the washer. Then you might get to sit down for a couple of seconds before one of the kids needs another kiss or drink. Oh, what a nice relaxing day with the family! Don't you just LOOOVE hiking?

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