Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Growing up in Louisiana, there was an abundance of things to keep us entertained. Long Summer days spent walking to the snow cone stand for the most glorious sugar-filled condensed milk covered masterpiece, only to have it dripping down to your elbows on the way home because you couldn't eat it fast enough. There were many weekends spent on the lake, knee-boarding, swimming and making mud castles on the bank. I personally loved to go to my friend's house to ride the four wheelers and fish for brim with marshmallows. The common thread to almost all my activities growing up was trying to not to turn into a puddle of sweat. Louisiana is so DAMN hot. The kind of hot that melts your sunglasses if you leave them in the car. The kind of hot where at every little league baseball game, there was someone who fell to heat stroke, and it was often NOT one of the little league players. It was usually some poor spectator that just keeled over in their ball park nachos. I didn't really bat an eye to see the EMTs at a sporting event, as it was a regular occurrence. In Louisiana, we didn't go on long meandering walks for fear of a fiery death. It just wasn't a thing you ever even thought about doing. We didn't "hike" anywhere because everywhere was flat, hot, and buggy. I think the only hiking I ever did was hitch hiking by golf cart in the neighborhood to get to the community pool a little quicker. Despite its drawbacks , I loved the things we did in Louisiana to keep entertained. It was its own brand of fun and I have spent a lot of effort and brain power trying to recreate such memories for my kids.
I decided to write this post in hopes that my fellow southerners will chime in and back me up on this. When you are raised in the South, you believe the things you grew up doing are totally normal. Even if they included a bb gun, coke cans and fireworks. I cannot tell you how many times I have come up with ideas of family fun, only to have my neighbors laugh at how weird I am. What has been one of the great upsides to moving all the time, is that it has opened my eyes to new ways to keep our crew happy, entertained and enjoying childhood. Even if it doesn't look like a shred of what I did at their age. As we have moved from coast to coast, I have always been devoted to throwing myself and our kids into the hobbies and extracurriculars in our new locations. When we first moved to California I was invited on a girls trip, to celebrate my dear friend Mian's (2nd) 40th birthday. The agenda was packed with nights of shows and fancy dinners but the days included shopping and, wait for it, ......hikes. I was perplexed by this. I was totally down for eating well and doing some window shopping, but why would we spend our vacation climbing stuff. It seemed like such a random outlier to be in Vegas careening off the side of cliffs. How was I even going to pack for this? Heels and a harness? I did what I always do, I researched. I flipped open my laptop, and jumped on Amazon to look up "must haves for a hike." Let me give you what I deduced in about 5 minutes.
There is a large market for it.
The more expensive the shoe, the uglier.
If you have a pair of hiking boots on right now, you have more to live for. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, this whole "hike thing" was cause for my alarm. My southern background did not provide a lot of experience. I called my friend Mian and after she had a good laugh, she assured me it was just an easy trip to some rock formation. I did not need a harness. That was called "rock climbing." We would just be walking around the rocks not attaching ourselves to any of them. There was also no need for me to spend a fortune on shoes I was likely to set on fire at a later date. Crisis averted. I was relieved but still a little nervous if I could keep up with my posse of expert hikers. Reality at this point was, the train was down the track. So I said a little prayer, threw a pair of Nikes in my suitcase, and called it good. Off I went.
On our second day in Vegas, we ventured out into the desert. I have to say, I was surprised by what I saw. Sure it was hot, but it was a hot that made you feel energized versus on the brink of passing out. In the stillness of the dessert heat there was a water color of sun drenched sienna that anchored the biggest, bluest, sky I had ever seen. It was almost dream like. Imagine my other great surprise when I uncovered one of the BEST kept secrets: hiking and walking are generally the same thing. I kept pace just fine with my expert companions as we were all experts. Yes, it's true, real hiking sometimes requires more clothes, a stick and ugly footwear, but it is generally just walking somewhere new and unseen. With all the hype, and gear, and massive following, I really believed at some point I may levitate. I didn't. But I had an amazing time and thought to myself, "Self, this ain't so bad! I may do this again if ever so inclined." My mini hike adventure was a total epiphany to the girl from Louisiana, and I hoped for the opportunity to share the experience with Zac and the kids one day.
Today was the day.
With all craziness that has been going on in the world Zac and I went back and forth on going somewhere over the kid's fall break. While I was team, "lets just go somewhere," Zac was team, "I don't want to spend money when everything is so uncertain." I dug my heels in a bit on this one because I knew we needed a change of scenery. After switching our plans three times due to Covid restrictions, we landed on a dot on the map named Artlegarth. Our little log cabin in Artlegarth is located directly between the Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales, which is nestled in the most charming English countryside. The drive included miles and miles of stone walls, sheep and cows. We were also the eager spectators of 5 rainbows that flanked our car as we drove north. I love a long drive like no other, and this one made my heart swell at the storybook scenery. Once we arrived, Zac made the face he always makes when he knows I was right about something, and glad that I pushed so hard to make it happen. It's my favorite face he wears. After settling in, we set out to the local visitor's center to find some free and social-distance-style fun. It came in the form of hiking. Here I go again, I'm better prepared for Round Two. Yep, we even went old school this time and purchased WRITTEN maps because the Sat Nav does not include many of these world famous trails we wanted to attempt. It made me feel a bit like pirate sitting at the kitchen table covered in maps that included funny english terms and gothic style drawings. We put the kids to bed that evening, poured generous cocktails and started sifting through what would best suit our rookie family's hiking needs. Zac found the perfect place, Cautley Spout, England's tallest above ground waterfall.
Today we hiked. Today was one of the best days we have had since our plane touched down at Heathrow Airport. It was one of those days that every thing just clicked as we went along. The weather on our hike was cold and windy, but rays of sunshine would break through the clouds and send pillars of light from the heavens to the hilltops. The air was so clean, so clear, that it made your lungs feel buoyant. (This was as close to levitating as I think I may ever get.) As we trotted along in our rain boots, the sounds of distant sheep, rushing water and roaring wind filled our ears. My eyes almost couldn't register everything I was seeing all at once. It was just overloaded with beauty. Each of our kids, chased after skittish sheep and sang songs while they hopped and jumped over little streams that cut across our path. We followed a "Lazy Levée" time table: we were in no rush to be anywhere, which made me able to completely unload my brain of all my mom thoughts. It was the kind of day that is now committed to my memory. It was such simple fun. We just walked together and witnessed nature's glory. It made my long walks to get a snow cone, look like a visit to the dentist. I'm okay with that.
If you were a fly on my wall tonight, you would laugh at the sight of me, rocking in front of a fire, in my bunny slippers, in a cabin in the middle of nowhere England. I keep having to remind myself that this is real life. Sometimes it feels a bit like I was plucked up in the middle of another story and dropped into Wonderland. While it sometimes feels a bit cliché, and nonsensical, here I am all the same. I think my take away from this trip is just how grateful I am for this ENTIRE experience. Thats right, both the mountain-top-highs and the loneliest-lows of this move, because they are blowing my world view to smithereens. Three years ago, I almost bought a diaper looking harness off of Amazon to go and walk the Vegas desert. I had no clue. Today, I hiked up the tallest waterfall in England. I could get whiplash from this sort of plot twist. Instead, I am going to put on a neck brace and just relish this trip, this day, this mountain top high. Let's be adventurers Darling!
So glad I get to bring you with me,
Ps. I want to note that Zac is the primo hiker. He reminds me that he hiked the tallest peek in California, Mount Whitney.