Mistakes on the trail still make happy memories.
By Courtney Johnson
Twenty minutes down the road, my daughter, Emma, asks if I remembered to fill up our Camelbaks. So much for the Scouts be prepared motto that Ive always spouted. A veteran hiker, author and speaker about hiking with children, and I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules about having water on the trail! (Insert eye roll here.) Even for a seasoned hiker, many things can go wrong on the trailas my daughter and I were about to find out.
An hour from the Adams Canyon trailhead in Layton, Utah, we stop for gas and fill our packs with water. The car registers a balmy 99 degrees when we pull into the trailhead. Popping open the trunk, I find a pool of water next to my daughters Camelbak. She never remembers to close the valve. You can lead a horse to water
Before I let out a gaggle of expletives, I simply switch the bladders out so she will have a full one. No sweatyet.
Not five minutes into the hike, the whining starts as the trail climbs 500 feet with switchbacks void of shade. Im melting like a toasted cheeser, my daughter moans, pulling a line from The Sandlot. Mom, dont you tell people NOT to hike in the heat of the day?
A few moments later and in the shade, the sound of Holmes Creek is hard to hear above the continued buzz of waspsperhaps some foreshadowing.
Are we almost to the top? Emma whines, her bellyaching at a level of dramatic perfection. Im STARVINNNNNGGGG! Not wanting to pull out the tasty snacks too early, I plead with her to keep going a bit longer.
Lets stop and cool off in the spray of that mini waterfall, I suggest. As Emma takes off toward it, I ask if her Salomon shoes are pulled tight. Wasnt that one of my personal gear-check rules before we left the trailhead? Guess I forgot
Not a minute later, shes yelling, My shoe! I lost my shoe! I believe it was Jean de La Fontaine who said, A hungry stomach cannot hear. Curse you, Jean now Im chasing a shoe downstream.
Soggy shoe back on, we continue the slow slog up to Adams Falls, our ultimate destination and the hike turnaround. After a few peaceful moments marveling at the natural wonder, I glance at my watch. S*#t! I forgot I told Aunt Kathy that wed be there in time for dinner, I shout over the sound of the falls. If we speed-hike down, maybe we will only be an hour late.
A brown trout scurries by Emmas foot, much to her delight, as she raises her arms to enjoy the spray. Watching her, I know we need to savor this moment of pleasure. These are the experiences that keep my daughter hiking, no matter the challenges. Sorry, fam, I mutter to myself.
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All the beauty taken in, I try to keep up a good pace as we head back down. Twenty minutes later and Emmas tired again. Without so much as looking off the trail for any hazards, I sit down on a rock and let out a yelpa stinging pain shooting up my backside. Picking my butt up, I spy the stunned wasp.
Ive lost track of how many rules of hiking I have now broken. Payback is a b*#ch.
As I move at top speed on the way down, Emma starts to fall behind. Finding shade, I suggest she build a cairn to take a break. As she successfully balances rocks one on top of the other, I see her frown turn to a smile. Another moment of fun, until a man heading toward us yells, Havent you heard of Leave No Trace?
Hes lucky I didnt put my old pitching arm to the test.
Arm around my daughter, both of us dirty and soaked with sweat as we descend the switchbacks to the car, we cant help but laugh at the mans crankinessnot to mention my multitude of hiking blunders throughout the day. Despite it all, we manage to complete the 50th hike for my book, The Best Utah Childrens Hikes. And the memories of that comedic hike are still making us laugh today.
Courtney Johnson is a mom, author and substitute teacher from Erie, Colorado. She is the author of and is currently writing her second book, The Best Cortez and Mesa Verde Hikes for publication in 2022.