A 4 Year-Old’s Rules for Hiking

We just returned from a Labor Day weekend trip to one of our favorite places to camp, hike and ride 4 wheelers at ~ the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. We took our 4 year-old grandson, Jackson, with us.  He loves camping, fishing, 4-wheeling, and just plain being outdoors.  So, we decided to take him hiking on the Indian Trail with us.

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Indian Trail TH Uncompahgre NF

The Indian Trail is a 9.6 mile trail which offers spectacular views of red rock cliffs in the Tabeguache Creek drainage.  We thought a short hike on this trail would be a fun first hike for Jackson.

Late Sunday morning, I loaded up his backpack with water, extra clothes and lots of snacks that only a 4 year-old would love ~ string cheese, crackers and cheese, crackers and peanut butter and chocolate.  Of course, those snacks are Grammie’s favorites, too!

We loaded our Polaris Ranger up and headed to the trailhead.  As we were riding, I explained the rules of hiking to Jackson:

  1. Always listen to what we say
  2. Never lose sight of Grammie and Grandpa
  3. Carry your own backpack
  4. Always drink lots of water
  5. Never wander off on your own
  6. Never touch something without letting Grammie and Grandpa know what you’re touching
  7. blah, blah, blah
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Jackson sporting Dale’s hiking poles especially fitted for him!

At the trailhead we unloaded. Jackson wanted hiking poles just like mine.  He didn’t care about how you use them, he wanted to be a hiker just like Grammie. So, Dale fitted Jackson with poles.  We strapped his backpack on him and we headed down the trail mindful of the fact that if we lose him or hurt him in any way, shape or form, we’d have to answer to his parents. Not a conversation I was looking forward to.  So, we kept a good eye on him at all times.   After all, I have lost that child in a Penny’s store before.  Not a problem for him. He knew where he was.  I didn’t.

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Sucking on a Fireweed blossom ~ tastes like honey!
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Digging using his grandpa’s hiking poles! 








Along the trail we showed him acorns, Fireweed, a bovine jawbone, a snake, bear scat, a waterfall and how to use his poles to bushwhack through the tall Hawthorn berry bushes without getting scratched.

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“Grammie! Why are you taking a picture  of bear poop?”
Leading the way for Grammie! He told me to be careful and to watch where I was stepping.



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We also taught Jackson how to use his poles to cross a small stream without getting wet ~ no small feat for a 4 year-old!




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Happy hiker! Snack time is the best time!







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Our reward for our efforts!



Jackson practiced his elk call and we ate snacks.  Round trip? Probably a mile. We didn’t want to wear him out and make him not want to go with us ever again! It was a great first hike for him.

At the end of the hike, we loaded back up into the Ranger and headed to our camper.  On our way back, Jackson wanted to recite the rules of hiking.  Here are the rules through his 4 year-old’s eyes:

  1. Always bring water, hiking makes you thirsty
  2. Never lose sight of your partners
  3. Always keep moving
  4. There’s no crying in hiking, unless it’s Grammie
  5. Carry your own backpack
  6. Always carry out trash
  7. Never go off on your own
  8. Always whisper, never yell
  9. Be quiet as much as you can
  10. Always pack good snacks you will want to eat
  11. Always hike downhill.  Going uphill is hard.
  12. Stay away from the edge of the cliff, it scares Grammie
  13. Take lots of snack breaks
  14. Always point your poles down in the dirt, never in the air like a spear
  15. Always watch what you’re doing and where you’re going
  16. Wear clothes that don’t make you sweaty.  Sweaty is gross.
  17. Always go with Grammie and Grandpa because you get chocolate at the end of the hike 
  18. Always take a nap in the camper after hiking (those where his words, not mine!!)

Later that afternoon, Jackson said he loved his hike and wanted to do it again.  He couldn’t wait to tell his mom and dad about it. But, first he needed a nap. We actually wore him out? The next morning he woke up and wanted to hike the Indian Trail in the Tabeguache Drainage again. My job is done!

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Not once did we have to carry him!  He was a trooper!


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Happy Lollygaggers!





How To Get Beaten By A Trail ~

Never_Give_Up_Never_Surrender“Never give up!  Never surrender!”  These are the immortal words spoken by the commander of the NSEA Protector in the 1999 movie, “Galaxy Quest”.  Proud words, I tell ya.  The way he conveyed them, I wanted to jump aboard that spaceship of his and help him save the galaxy from alien attacks. Let’s go!!! Let’s fight and never ever give up!!  And, hell no, I will NEVER surrender!!!

Never give up.  Never surrender. These are words I try to live by every day.  I’m a competitor.  I’m hard~headed. I don’t like people helping me.  When Dale sees me struggling, I stubbornly refuse his offer to help saying, “I can do it myself!” Then I proceed to drop a 30 pound bag of dog food in the street because I have just wrestled it from him while he was trying to help me get it into my jeep.  Silly girl….

Well, Commander, do you have any words for when you do give up?  For when you do surrender?  I do.  And they aren’t for the faint of heart…

ourayA few Sundays ago, we were on our way home from a weekend adventure with friends in Silverton, Colorado.  We drove through the town of Ouray, which is nestled at the base of the rugged San Juan mountain range.  We enjoy Ouray. We have jeeped in their mountains.  We have hiked to the Box Canyon waterfalls.  We have attended ice climbing competitions there and have snowshoed at Ironton Park above Ouray.  The town has mining history galore.  Ouray is also known for having numerous hot springs.  Ouray is surrounded by beautiful mountains, cliffs and trails and is also home to our favorite pub, the Ouray Brewery.

ourayperimeterOuray is also home to the newly completed, Ouray Perimeter Trail, or as I fondly call it, The Death March.  According to ouraytrails.org  the Perimeter Trail is described as a moderate trail which circles the town of Ouray, with an elevation gain of 800 feet over 4.2 miles, which takes 3 hours to complete (must be the feel-good Chamber of Commerce description).  Another website,  http://www.gjhikes.com/2012/09/ouray-perimeter-trail.html describes the trail as a strenuous 5.9 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,426 feet and takes roughly 4 hours to complete (but only if you’re a effing mountain goat!). Seriously?  Come on people, get your act together.  In this amazing age of technology, how can trail lengths, elevation gain and difficulty rating be like night and day??  Wish I had known these discrepancies earlier in the day…..

usfsComing off Red Mountain Pass, just before you drop into Ouray, there is an USFS amphitheater parking and camping area.  You can jump on the Perimeter Trail from there.  Dale and I had noticed the sign numerous times and decided a quick hike around Ouray would be the perfect thing to break up our 4 hour trip home.  So, we parked our camper in the parking lot, and proceeded to gear up for the hike. I put on my old trail shoes, not my boots which I always hike in. I didn’t have my hiking poles. No problem, the trail looked pretty level. I didn’t have my day pack or snacks.  That’s okay.  I was still full from breakfast in Silverton.  No pack = no camelback bladder, either.  No problem.  It’s not too hot and Dale has a bottle of Smartwater in his pocket ~ we’ve taken longer hikes with no water. I’m all set.  Let’s go!!!

We quickly found the trailhead and I went skipping down it like one of the seven dwarfs on their way to work ~ Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s down the trail we go!!  As we hiked further down the trail, we would catch glimpses of Ouray down below us.  Wow!  Everyone looks so tiny down there!  That’s pretty funny how tiny they are!  Dale, aren’t all those tiny people cute down there?  Wait. They’re down there.  They’re way down there.  We are way up here… Hey, wait a minute…. Don’t we have to cross the highway at some point in town to go around Ouray and circle back up to the camper?  Oh well, no worries…

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The trail took us higher and the people down below got smaller.  I was out of breath and thirsty.  Never give up! Never surrender! Then the trail turned sharply downhill.  Small rocks were rolling under my feet forcing me to grab a hold of tiny aspens and the branches of pines trees that lined our path. Sweat was starting to form along my hairline and drip down my cheeks .  I was starting to get really pissed. 

What kind of trail is this anyway?  Is that a hunger pain I feel?  What time is it?  I’ve been 3 hours without food?  Crap. I need my poles. Where are my glucose tablets? Stupid trail…

I kept looking uphill behind me at our camper which was parked far away at the top of the hill across the valley.  Shit.  Oh well, it’ll get better.   We must be halfway there!  We made our way down to Lower Cascade Falls.  Yay!  Water! A parking lot!  People!  We’re home free!!!  The sign there said we had only gone a distance of .40 miles.  Hey!  That’s not right!  That sign is messed up ~ no way in hell can that be true!  I’m sure we hiked 2 miles, at least! I turned around and looked at the camper parked way up on the hill across town.  Then it hit me.  What goes down, must go back up… Crap. I was spent.  I was hungry.  I was thirsty.  I hated my shoes.  I needed my hiking poles.  I wanted to go home. 

ouray_cascade_falls_signDale asked me what I wanted to do.  I said in my cheeriest never surrender, never give up voice, “Let’s keep going!!” You can catch the trail at numerous spots around town.  Lower Cascade Falls is one of them.  We bypassed the falls parking area and headed up the hill towards Upper Cascade Falls. Wait. Why are we going uphill?  Town is downhill. We know the trail crosses the highway at the end of town.  We were almost at the end of town.  How can we cross when we’re headed uphill??  Oh crap.  I want my poles.  Where are my poles?  I can’t do this anymore.  I cannot continue. I need to… surrender.  Wahhhhh!!!!

Have you ever had a trail chew you up and spit you out?  I have. It’s not pretty.  There are a lot of unladylike characteristics involved: swearing, crying, bending over and hacking.  Yep.  I’m not proud of what I did.  It was an ugly moment for me.  Dale asked me if I wanted to keep on hiking or if I wanted to…. quit.  QUIT???? “I’m not a quitter!”, I snarled back at him.  Quitters are losers who have given up too easily. I refuse to give up, give in or just plain give!!  But, my body told me different. I was forced to give in. Dammit.

I told Dale I couldn’t do this anymore.  I wanted to turn around and go back. I’m hot.  I’m hungry.  I’m gassed.  I give up. I surrender.  Wow, never saw that coming.  He turned around and looked at me in disbelief, “Really?? You really want to quit?” Tears in my eyes, hanging my head, I said, “Yes”.  I had been defeated by a stupid trail.  Granted, I wasn’t prepared, but that didn’t matter.  I gave up.  And that pissed me off. 

We hiked back down the the Cascade falls parking lot and reassessed our trip back to the truck.  We looked across town and up the highway leading to Red Mountain Pass ~ the highway has 2 large switchbacks before you get to the amphitheater parking area. Some how, we needed to march back through town and straight up the hill to our truck. 

Our truck is parked on the upper left curve that is hidden by the bush. We were down in the middle of town.

I mustered all the strength I had left and we walked back through town towards Red Mountain Pass.  We laughed and talked about how silly we were to think we could conquer the trail unprepared. We got to the end of town and looked straight up.  There was our truck parked straight up the mountain from where we were standing.  I dropped the f-bomb like it was confetti. How in the f*&king hell are we going to get up there? F*%k that $&#t!!!!!! F*%k, F*%k, F*&k!!!!


Well, hike up the effing mountain, dumb ass. I was actually thinking about hitchhiking when I decided to GPS the neighborhood. I found a trail that cut through private property, and led right to the road that would take us back to our truck. Glory be to God Almighty!!!! Let’s go!!!! We found the trail and started up the stairs that would take us to Heaven!  Did I mention stairs?  Stairs either lead down or up.  In this case, they would lead up.  And up.  And up.  Straight up.  This is where I had my meltdown.  A full blown hissy fit.  I was so gassed, I hit a wall.  I bent over and gasped for air.  I even dry heaved. I cried, “I can’t do this! I want to go home!” Tears of anger and frustration ran down my face. I couldn’t stop it.  Dale stood above me and let me have my moment.  Then he calmly said, “Jill, you have to do this.” Never give up.  Never surrender.

img_8160I gathered myself, wiped my face and nose with my bare arm and proceeded to trudge up the stairs like I was on a death march.  We eventually got to the top of the hill and found the Perimeter Trail.  We met another woman on it who couldn’t believe the trail was this difficult.  She was led to believe it was a little more user-friendly than it really was.  There, validation that I wasn’t the only one who thought the trail was a little more difficult than the trail head sign let on. We eventually arrived at the truck. I was never so happy to see our truck and camper!  I kissed the side of it and happily jumped into the front seat.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t give up.  I didn’t surrender.  If I had, I’d still be sitting by the side of the highway in Ouray, crying, hacking and carrying on like a baby.  We will eventually conquer the Ouray Perimeter Trail.  And when we do, we will be prepared for the battle.  I found out later from a friend of mine who is an experienced runner, that she had tried to run the trail and had failed. I don’t feel so bad. And as a side-note, we only hiked .80 miles….