Today was already starting out with a little less enthusiasm then the 3 previous days, but we still were able to get out of the house by 8:30. I had decided last night that we would be hitting the Piestewa Nature Trail 304 I read in Take a Hike Phoenix that it was a super kid friendly 1.3 mile loop, just what I was looking for especially with the current attitudes in the truck. We got the trail head and 2 of the 3 boys had lightened up but my sweet Drew had dug in and was ready to battle for the next hour or so…
We set off and I decided to help Luc up the first little climb just to avoid an early burn out and potential melt down from a hyper sensitive touchy group. We quickly crossed paths with some young ladies who tried engaging Drew in a chat about lizards and he not only ignored them he gave them the “why do you think you can speak to me?” squint and stare. This is where I draw the line and its time to have a little chat, it went something like this….
”you want to have a bad day? Okay have one, but you’re not allowed to be rude and try to ruin others good day. So you need to take a seat on this rock and we will come back for you in a bit, but once you’ve decided to snap out of it you can try and catch up.”
…and away Luc, Munch and I went. Maybe 10 feet of trail were covered before a teary seven year old rejoined the group and once again we were 4 and onward we went. At about 25 minutes in we had reach a ridge and figured it was a good time for snacks and drinks, this was welcomed with open hands and mouths. Out of no where I was struck by the quart and a half of water I drank earlier wanting to exit my body but there wasn’t an ideal place to relieve the pressure, so we carried on and this is where the day was about to make the day EPIC. I finally found a spot off the trail and still able to see the boys, once the euphoric relief had come to an end we marched on. Slowly as the minutes and steps passed I started to get that feeling that we had missed the turn that would have finished the loop back to the parking lot. I went to retrieve the trail guide when to my surprise it wasn’t in the backpack but rather next to my bed where I had been scouting out today’s hike last night. I pushed on with a 15 min time limit set internally for the next evaluation of the situation, and the distance covered in that 15 minutes had to be a record for a 2 year old because we covered some ground with no left turn to be found. At this point I was pretty sure we had ended up on the 1A trail mostly to the trail markers that said “1A” its usually a good indicator anyway. So we took a break to get some more water in and I made the decision to keep moving forward , I was pretty sure this trail was a loop and the fact it was still in the 60’s out the adventure began. At this point we were squarely on the back side of the mountain from where we had started which solidified my decision to just not turn back and just return the way we came. To the north I could see what I was pretty sure was Trail 100 that runs east to west through the length of the park for almost 11 mile one way which all I could think about is how much I want to run it, but that was for a different day. Then out of no where there was the VOAZ trail that headed south and appeared to head up the mountain, but I didn’t recognize the name and there were no one else around so we continued on the trail we were on. In hind site if we would of hopped on that trail it would have taken pretty much back to 304 the trail we were on, oh well next time. This was the moment I truly didn’t know where we were and I thought “this is a great chance to teach some life lessons” so I told the boys we were lost but we were lost together. They took the news a lot better than I had anticipated I told them “we will be fine, we have water and snacks” I’m pretty sure that’s all a 7 and 6 year old care about. We had been on the trail for about 2 miles and had only carried Luc a few times I was prepared for a melt down from him as we kept going into the unknown. We had started heading straight west and had gone about a quarter mile when we had another opportunity to take a left and head south so I took it and this was about the time Luc had had enough, to my shoulders he went. We began our blind faith climb up the trail that I know now is called the 1A irregular, we moved at a good pace up to the ridge. Once on the ridge I could see what I wanted to see it was the Freedom 302 Trail that looped around the mountain and would take us back to the promise land, down the other side of the ridge we headed down to the sweet Freedom Trail. We had now surpassed the time and distance we had spent out during the previous hikes and the temperature had began to start creeping up we took our last snack break. Spirits were incredibly high we crossed paths with and older couple and rude boy drew was the first to say “good morning”, things were looking good. I was pretty much carrying Luc in one way or another all the time at this point. Then it happened…. There was a snake on the trail that drew had stepped over without having a clue it was there. The good news it was an just an 18 inch garter snake taking in the rays he looked up and noticed the crowed and headed into a hole, however this was a great teaching moment for the importance of trail awareness. Munch on the other hand only knew that there was a snake and a mini melt down would be with us until the end, no hysterics just a light sob and snot. We finally made our way the mountain until we connected to the Summit Trail and talk about culture shock, we went from seeing 4 people all day into one of the busiest trail in the Phoenix Parks. The descent was quick as there was a resurgent of energy now that the parking lot was in view, the rest was a breeze.
It turns out we ended up hiking almost 5 miles and I could have been happier about the way it all played out. Its rare we can be thrust into situations that test who we are and how we are going to handle it especially when we are also responsible for children at the same time. Before anyone calls child protective service on me for being an irresponsible father, I did have my phone with full service the whole time and at any time I could of called someone or brought up a map. But I don’t want my kids to rely on that, I want them to know that staying calm and paying attention will keep you much safer than freaking out and shutting down. We also learned that we need to double check our supplies before we leave for the house to make sure we have everything, it was just a book this time. The boys now know what 5 miles feels like so if we were stranded some where they know what they are at least capable of doing. I know I have transformed myself from an obese dad to one that can carry his child up and down a mountain for miles with out losing his breath. And finally and most importantly Luc knows he can chew all my gum and not get yelled out because he is the baby and is spoiled rotten, but I think he already knows that.
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