Monday, August 9, 2021

The Forced March (Hike) - Parenting in the Parks Post 4

After dragging our children through Mount Rushmore, stuffing them with the only gluten-free options we could find, and forcing them to talk to a park ranger to receive their junior ranger badges, my husband and I decided we could not end the day there. We had heard there was a hiking trail. We love hiking! It is 111 degrees outside! Our kids are already miserable! It is the perfect opportunity to explore the great outdoors! Isn’t that why we brought the whole family to South Dakota anyway?

The entrance to the Blackberry Trail at Mount Rushmore is not clearly marked and we spent most of our time wandering back and forth across the parking lot asking different park rangers to point us in the right direction. This of course only primed our children for ultimate whining as there really is nothing that says family fun more than walking across a large, steaming hot and crowded public parking lot when you are already tired. We prevailed though, and eventually found the trail head. 

The seven year old was done. “NO”

We ignored her.

The secret to hiking with her we’ve learned is to just make it through the first mile. She complains loudly through the first mile and then cheers up and tends to have extreme amounts of energy for the rest of the hike. This hike, however, was only a total of two miles, so that meant half the hike would entail drama. 

Sometimes the seven year old can be distracted with a game of pretend. The day before while we wandered through the Badlands looking for rattlesnakes and telling the kids that this was great fun, she had decided to pretend to be Manhattan, the famous tour guide. 

“Hello everyone, my name’s Manhattan. It’s a long one so try your best to remember it. What’s my name again? That’s right! Manhattan! Everyone, fall in line behind me and I’ll take you through this lovely trail called The Badlands. Just right here over this small hill. Stay on the trail please - mommy! Is that a rattle snake?” 

“No... that’s just a plant”

“Well then, let’s not be scared of the plant everyone - but keep your eyes out for rattlesnakes and stay on the path. Just follow your trusted tour guide, Manhattan. On your left you will see the Badlands... look at those different colors of red, yellow, and brown. On your right, more Badlands.” 

Truthfully, Manhattan was a good tour guide even if she was absolutely making up everything she said. And narrating the trail was far more pleasant than whining so we were all happy when Manhattan showed up.

On our Blackberry trail hike however, Manhattan was nowhere to be found. After the seven year old made multiple attempts to turn around without us noticing or to just sit down on the ground and refuse to move, I asked where Manhattan was. 

“Oh, didn’t you hear?” my daughter said without a beat. “She died. She was leading a hike on this very trail and was so very tired. She went off to look for blackberries and fell off that rock right there. Sorry.” 

You know things are dire when imaginary characters start dying. 

Despite the death stories and the refusals to move, the Blackberry Trail was beautiful. The trail takes you on a loop behind Mount Rushmore. It was incredible that within the same park we had been surrounded by people and now, so close to where we had just been, we were alone. We did not see anyone on the entire trail but were able to marvel at the beauty of the Black Hills and see just why they had chosen that spot for Mount Rushmore. Although only a mile away from the parking lot we felt as though we were deep in the woods as we stopped to turn around.

Eventually we made it to the bottom of the trail - which we had completely in a whopping 39 minutes for the full downhill mile. We moved so slowly that my watch gave me an idle alert and told me I had been sitting too long. I took lots of pictures to amuse myself so that I would not outright lose my mind or say something so awful that I could never take it back. 

Miraculously, just like with every hike, as we began the second mile the seven year old perked up. As we turned around to go up the steep one mile hill we had just gone down she took off, practically running the entire way. We made it up the hill in significantly less time than it took us to go down. What can I say? It was a beautiful hike and completely worth it.

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