As I sit to write this post and can reflect on the day from the comfort of my cozy clothes, sitting next to kristi on a semi-comfortable couch I can say with all the authority in the world that today was the perfect day. Today was the kind of day that makes all the hard, all the discomfort, all the junk involved in a family trip worth it. Why?
Because we didn’t die.
After a quiet start to the day our plan of going to Pikes Peak was thwarted by snow up in the mountains. We aren’t going unless we can get to the TOP! So off to the 6 mile Catamount trail we went. We knew it would be a little rough, but we’d done nearly six miles yesterday so what could go wrong? So off we went with a before picture and then we started up the road to get to the trail head.
Upon reaching the trail head it was clear we’d have to do some climbing. Actually, we knew we’d have to do some climbing up and around obstacles before we left, it was in the description. When we saw the sign it seemed perfectly normal that the trail would look steep and a little challenging. In fact, the brochure promised only the “beginning” would be rough. The first few steps would have served as a bad omen to lesser individuals, but to Kristi and I it only emboldened our stubborn resolve to press on. So on we went.
The kids had a great time following the blue and yellow (GO BLUE!) trail markers to the top (which was right around the corner. Right?) of the trail where we were supposed to find the Garden of Eden. As we climbed the trail the kids found fun spots to hide in, and we took a few breaks as the ascent was a little steep. On more than one occasion Kristi and I thought to ourselves that going down was going to be fun… and not in the fun way. in the oh my goodness HOW kind of way. Yet again, we had started the trail and we were going to finish. The brochure even said “round-trip” so maybe there was an easy way out? The older two kids knew there was little use in whining, but when they asked “how far have we gone” and the answer was 1.8 miles their response was less than enthusiastic. I’m not sure why, surely most people only walk 1.8 miles in 90 minutes, what was wrong with our speed? Actually… Ben and I had run 2 miles earlier in the day in less than 24 total minutes, so I guess they had reason to be concerned. Now, I’ve mentioned the trail was a little steep and slow going but I’ve failed to mention that 98% of it was snow covered. Thankfully it was packed so we knew where to go, but that same packing made the trail slippery and probably a little dangerous, and again not the fun kind of dangerous. Yet on we went, we had started and we just had to be getting close… finally as we pressed on there was a small clearing of snow to mud and dirt, and we had reached the top of whatever it was we were climbing and reached the entrance to the “Garden of Eden”.
At the Garden of Eden we had to decide whether or not to press on, or to head back down the mountain. Knowing what it meant to head down the mountain, and still hanging on to the glimmer of hope that there might be an “easy button” waiting for us at the end, we pressed on. After crossing my bridge and continuing to climb up rocks next to the Catamount Creek, we made it to the dirt path! Only the dirt path led to some pretty steep inclines. Trudging along we finally made it to the South Catamount Reservoir with picnic tables, bathrooms, and a boat launch! Well… the reservoir was frozen over, the bathrooms were locked, and the ranger station said the ranger was making rounds, but I bet the sign has said that since late October. In truth, the place was as closed down and isolated from humanity as it could be. The only saving grace was the picnic table. After a quick glance at the map it was clear… in this case “round-trip” meant out and back. We were going back the same way we came. After a quick bite to eat and a few pictures to remember the day by we set out with a goal of doing the 3:15 minute hike home in 2:45.
Being the incredible parents we are (ha) we gave the kids a pep talk about falling on our backsides, taking it easy, and knowing that things were going to get hard before they got easy. They knew it wasn’t going to be fun, but to their credit they pushed on. The trail on the way back to our car was super slippery, and we did fall, we did hang on to trees for balance, some of us even fell on our backsides. I’m quite sure I smacked Joshua in the face once or twice losing my balance. For their efforts, Kayleigh and Ben came up with various riffs on Harry Potter names using them to their descent down the mountain. The most popular move is the Barty Crouch, which entails putting your butt inches from the ground and sliding down on your shoes.
After nearly 90-minutes of stressful, is this slip going to be the one to do us all in, we made it to the bottom of the trail. I can honestly say this was an occasion where I didn’t want to go back down the trail myself, much less with a child in tow. Yet with a little perseverance and a whole lot of prayer, we made it back down the mountain and safely to our van… at which point we immediately went to the play ground I promised Josh he could play on six hours earlier. Oops.
So why would I call this stressful, harrowing, irresponsible, and possibly downright dangerous day “perfect”? Because there is no amount of planning or money that could have made a memory like this. The kids will always have the “Catamount Trail Debacle”. They’ll remember stepping on rocks, finding deep snow for grip, finding secluded areas to answer nature’s call, and hopefully they’ll remember they had fun doing it. It is another hard thing that they had to do, but I’m glad they did it together. I’m proud of my kids, and Kristi too, for how we worked together to make it safely back home… and the $2.00 snack I promised they could each have when we got there.
Some more pictures and video of the day: