“It’s starting to rain,” I said. “We didn’t beat the rain, guys.”
“It rained last year, too,” said my daughter. “Remember how I fell down the mountain?”
It did rain last year on our Mother’s Day hike. I asked them to go up the north ridge of Champlain Mountain with me, because the views up there are my favorite. Of course, when we reached the summit the fog that hadn’t seemed a big deal at the bottom obscured everything at the top. Then it started to mist on the way down, which made all the smooth granite faces slippery and, well. It was treacherous. Some of us had an incident or two. (Or three.) But all ended well.
“We should go anyway, right?” I asked.
“Of course,” they agreed. Hiking on Mother’s Day is just what we do. At least this year, knowing it was most likely going to rain, I picked the simpler, smaller Great Head. I do learn from my mistakes occasionally.
“Hey, I remember this one,” said my daughter as we started down the trail. “We did this one when our family came to visit.”
“That’s right,” I said. “We did it a few years ago on Mother’s Day as well.”
“It was sunny that day,” my daughter said. “Right?”
“Right,” I said.
“Do you remember seeing the deer carcass that time? Did we see bones on the trail?” said my husband.
“Oh yeah,” my son said. “No, it was fur. There was fur everywhere. We thought it was coyotes.”
We walked on, scrambled up the fun, steep pitch–which wasn’t as slick from the rain as I’d feared–and soon could see mountains rising up behind us.
“Look! It’s the Beehive!” my daughter said.
“Where?” asked my son. He hasn’t been allowed to do the Beehive trail yet, so it holds a certain mystique.
“Right there. See?”
“Oh, yeah. It does look like a beehive. I see why it gets that name. Can I climb it this year?”
“I think you’ll have to,” I said. We’ve set the goal of hiking every peak in Acadia this year, Beehive included, so he’s going to have to manage it. He’ll be ready by the time we go.
“You’ll like it,” his sister said. “It’s really fun.”
We headed across the ridge, high above the ocean.
“Where’s Sand Beach?” my son asked. “Can’t we see it from here?”
“It’s right below us,” I said. “The overlook trail is right here.” We stopped to take a peek.
“The waves look rough today,” my son said.
“Not as rough as that time you lost your goggles. Remember how the waves knocked you over that time? I only fell over, but you got tumbled all around and the waves took your goggles away?” My daughter started laughing.
He joined in laughing. “Yeah. I remember that.”
As they continued down the trail, still chatting, I stopped for a second to marvel about how much they remembered. About how many memories they had layered upon other memories, about this trail, this park, this experience of hiking with us.
It kind of took my breath away.
Not every outing is perfect. We fall down mountains, we find dead things, we lose our goggles. We ended this one drenched through and chilled. And not every outing is memorable. I’ve easily forgotten the majority of the adventures we’ve taken; I’d forgotten half the things they remembered that day alone.
But I’ve learned that if you get out there enough, what you get are memories so much a part of who you are that they are in your very bones. You not only start to understand the landscape around you, but that landscape becomes meaningful in a different way, every time.
That’s the goal, right? To make their childhoods something they can build upon? To make memories to last a lifetime? To make the land part of the family?
I always tell my kids we are going on an adventure, not a hike. First, because “adventure” produces less whining but also because it’s true. We don’t know what we are going to find when we walk out the door. We just go. And just like that, we have another memory.
Just like that.