A Life Full of Great
A Life Full of Great
Zack asked me, “What would you have done if we did not want to do stuff like this?” just as my other son, Scott, and I were catching our breaths half way up to the top of Fellow’s Hill. We were climbing straight up and out of Tinker’s Falls Gorge. Our plan was to end the hike by sledding down an old logging road back to the trailhead. It was an annual winter adventure; however, with Zack off to college the next year, it was likely going to be our last.
The hike began with us walking side by side with the stream to the base of the falls. Powder snow shined brilliantly in perfect color symmetry with the blue of the sky and the dark green of the hemlocks. The boys threw ice chunks into the water and watched them sink, only to pop out further downstream. As they had done when they were little, Zack and Scott chipped ice away with sharp pieces of shale as if they were miners searching for gems. We were in no rush this time. We would stop when they wanted to stop, even if it meant hitting rush hour traffic on the way home to Long Island.
At the falls, water plummeted between two columns of ice that reached 40 feet from top to bottom, where it flowed through the clear ice shaped like a fancy sculpture. The shallow overhang enabled us to walk behind the curtain of ice, while our nerves were on alert wondering if a huge shard would break off and crash down on our heads.
From there the climb began. The boys liked to go straight up using the hemlocks as if they were rungs on a ladder. In the early years, I carried their sleds and pulled them up behind me, but with the passing of time, I no longer have to carry any sleds or give anyone a hand. And, it takes less and less time to get to the top. We stop, only so I can rest; the hill gets smaller for them and bigger for me. I was happy when the slope eased as we moved out of the hemlocks and into the maples.
At the top we took a break and laid on our sleds, cradled by the soft snow as we stared into the sky. There was not a single cloud. Snow balanced on every branch, with just enough wind to occasionally blow some flakes off. They drifted down, gravity making magic. I could have stayed there all day. Finally, as we rested and took in the beauty of nature, I answered Zack’s question. “It would have meant a lot less time in wild places. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you guys love this. All of our outdoor adventures, from backpacking miles to venturing out on short walks, have been a gift to me. I hope we have a lot more,” I told him. The boys responded with smiles, but really just wanted to start heading back down. It was at that moment, that I realized how much I wanted to slow down time; it was a perfect day and I wasn’t cold at all. One chickadee broke the silence.
We started down with my reminder to be careful which fell upon their ears with the same impact it did mine when my mother used to tell me the same. From top to bottom, it was about a half mile of the curves of a bobsled run. It was too steep and too long not to stop a couple of times. These breaks gave me a chance to catch up, but only momentarily, before the boys flew off ahead of me, crashing along, and snow flying behind them at me. As always, the bottom of the sledding trail erupted into a snowball fight. Zack and Scott stalked each other and waited in ambush until it dissolved into a wrestling match. Wet, cold, and exhausted, we ended in a pile at the bottom of the hill surrounded by happiness and beauty.