No one in my family likes to hike as much as I do. Mother’s Day is supposed to be mom’s choice. I pull out my trump card and use that day to plan my more ambitious outings.
Last year we took on the Cedar Falls trail at Petit Jean State Park. This is a trail to a tall, often kind of wispy waterfall at the bottom of a canyon. The park has several places where you can stand at the top and gaze down at it. The views there are pretty but because of the geography your gazing must be done at some distance. To really get the full effect of the falls, you need to go down to the canyon floor and look up at the falls. As a bonus, the bottom of the falls are covered with rocks and boulders that are way more exciting than any playground for the 10-and-under set. In the spring, the path to the falls is covered with wildflowers. It may be the most beautiful hike in the state.
Still it’s not for the faint of heart. The park has placed warning signs at the beginning instructing visitors that the hike is strenuous. They sell t-shirts in the gift shop where you can brag you survived. At the same time, you regularly see dogs and toddlers on the path. Granted they might be being carried on the way back up, but it’s not an impossible journey. It’s about a two-hour hike round trip, although I’m sure park rangers or someone just really familiar with the trail could do it in half that time, or that was the calculation I made when deciding how long it would take medical help to reach us if a certain boy had an allergic reaction at the end of the trail.
You see there’s a tradition: a lot of hikers bring food and have a picnic at the bottom of the falls. This was a real dilemma for us the first year. Having never been there before and not really knowing much about the trail, I decided not to risk having Max eat at the bottom. That was not a popular decision, especially when we got to the falls and saw other hikers had a couple of rather elaborate picnics laid out before them on the rocks. I reassured my family we had a lovely picnic back in the trunk of the car, but there’s no doubt our picnic envy marred our enjoyment of the falls. I know the rumbling tummies made the hike back up the canyon seem about three times longer than it should have as well. There may even have been some what I like to call “llama drama” feigning fainting from hunger, and I may have countered by bringing up the third world and starving children and how certain people had a lovely breakfast and should be thankful. Mostly I tried to block that part of the trip out of my mind.
Since I’m pretty good at blocking unpleasantness from my mind especially with the passage of time, it was with some excitement that I proposed going back there this Mother’s Day. Claire was sort of willing, but Max was not happy. After considering it for a few minutes at dinner one night, he drew an analogy that I must say threw me for a bit of a loop. Jason didn’t get it at first, but I knew as soon as he started just where he was going with it and what he meant. He said his not wanting to go back to Cedar Falls was like how after he ate the Burger King burger and had the allergic reaction and had to use the epi pen, he no longer wanted to go back to Burger King. (See the second part of Our Journey.) He knew it wasn’t quite the same but after he went to the falls and had a bad time and was hungry he no longer wanted to go back to that same place. “I don’t like to go back to places where I have bad memories,” he said. It became clear to me at that point that we definitely needed to go back to the Falls. That spot is way too beautiful to let one non-picnic tarnish it. I am less sure if we need to go back to Burger King. I get his reluctance there.
Anyway, after briefly considering a few other hike locations, we did decide to go back to the falls. I played my Mother’s Day trump card. Having had some time to get used to the idea, Max was mostly OK with it, or he didn’t cause much of a fuss at least. I decided a picnic at the bottom was in order this time. We stocked up on the benadryl and the epi pens. I made sure to pack only foods that are part of our regular menu. It didn’t seem like a good time to experiment with lobster or caviar even if it was Mother’s Day and that does sound elegant now doesn’t it? It turned out fine, even better than fine really. The weather was perfect and the crowds were thinner than usual. It may not be every mother who wants to go hiking on her day. I was glad I did, and I felt quite blessed my family loved me enough to go along with me. Now we’ll just have to decide about Burger King.
One of my favorite snacks to take on hikes (which I obviously should have taken the first time we went to the Cedar Falls trail) is granola. I love the tropical version here: http://www.usaweekend.com/article/20060226/FOOD04/91015002/Great-granola, but they are all good. It’s easy to improvise. I cut the oil by about half, and it still tastes great.