One of our summer traditions is to summit one of Colorado’s infamous Fourteeners before the kids head back to school. If you are reading this and not from Colorado that means the top of the mountain is over 14,000ft above sea level. We are a little crazy here in Colorado so we climb very tall things for fun. I’m not sure why we do these things, but I am here for it.
We started this family tradition four years ago, this trip is a labor of love every year and this year was no exception.
I consider it a major win every time we reach a summit. Hiking to that altitude is a feet many adults can’t or simply won’t take on because of how challenging it is. You pick up anywhere from 2000-4000 feet of altitude gain in a short amount of time, once above tree line (between 11,000-12,000 ft) you’re walking on rocks and shale, and the weather is incredibly unpredictable. Going up is hell on the lungs and mind, coming down is hell on the ankles, knees and psyche.
“Wow Sara, that sounds miserable. Why do you do it?” Shortest answer-because we can. My family and I are capable and we have the means and supplies to give it a go, so we do. But there is one more piece to the puzzle that I feel is important to acknowledge- We do this to push ourselves. Not just my husband and I, but our kids as well.
I’m aware that there are much “easier” ways to push my kids then making them haul themselves to the top of a large mountain. We push them in other ways too (God knows I am trying to raise intelligent, strong, NOT entitled members of society in a world that seems hell-bent on making them dependants but that’s a conversation for later) hiking the fourteener as a family is something that we do TOGETHER.
It’s hard. There are tears, there are bad words, there’s anger, there’s frustration, but ultimately there’s pride and a sense of accomplishment that stays with them long after we come off the peak. My kids know that they have accomplished something several times over that most adults won’t even attempt. They know that in the moment it SUCKS sometimes, but they also know that when we get down to our car it’s over. They did it.
A little side note I’d like to add after a conversation my husband and I had post hike- We are aware of our kiddos limits. Yes, there is a certain amount of push that takes place during these hikes. There are many times that they want to quit. To be fair there are many times that I want to quit too, but as of yet we have not had to make that call. I would not intentionally put my children in a place of negligence or harm. So while it is amazing for us as a family to say that we’ve hiked a 14er, it would never be worth it to me at the expense of my children’s safety.
That’s the lesson, the feeling that I want them to remember when things in life are tough. No one gets through life easy, I don’t care who you are. How you handle the hard is what keeps you upright and pushing forward. Now, both of my kids have said they will not be hiking again for a while (which I understand completely), but they also haven’t let the fact that they were physically wiped out afterwards stop them from continuing to enjoy what’s left of their summer vacation. They actually spent over two hours at the pool when we returned to our condo. I wish I could say I had that kind of energy.
There are only so many summer breaks left with my children, a thought that makes me sad. I love the lazy days by the pool, the day-trips and road trips, and our annual hiking trip is one of my favorite memories each summer. I want them to look back on these years and remember the adventures we went on as a family. They don’t have to remember them through rose-colored glasses but my hope is that they can say “It was hard, but I’m so glad we did it.”
If that’s what they walk away with, I’ll consider myself a success in these adolescent years. Until next time!