Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mountaineering on a 22 million old peak - Picacho Peak State Park

Lukas and I climbed a volcanic peak that is 22 million years old – four times as old as the Grand Canyon. I felt iffy about doing this hike with my eight-year-old son, since the park ranger suggested that only kids older than 12 attempt the climb to the summit. Lukas insisted on going, and so we did.
I shouldn't have worried. The boy kicked my butt and left me quite literally in the dust. I kept yelling, “Wait for me!”, and he kept checking, “Are you okay, Mom? Are you scared?” Because the truth is: I was terrified. This hike required hanging on to steel ropes and climbing up sheer cliff faces with vertical drops. Lukas kept reminding me not to look down as we pulled ourselves up and up and up.

You can tell that we sweated buckets to get to this summit.
Lukas pointing the way.
Descending one of the steep sections.  I didn't take any pictures of the other steel cable sections, since I was too busy hanging on to them for dear life.
That boy is always moving.

He is wearing bicycling gloves because of the steel cables.

The hike was worth it. Not only because of the views, but because of the bonding with Luke. It is rare that I get to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids, so these three hours together with him felt extra special. I felt very grateful for him, this child of mine that seemed on the brink of death three years ago, when he contracted a rare disease that left him with a heart aneurysm, for which he has to take aspirin and coumadin to thin his blood every single night. Three years ago, when he slept lifelessly in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines and monitors, I couldn't have imaged him as he was today: red cheeked, full of life, sprinting up a mountain, his wiry body marching ahead of me.
Three years ago, when my best friend Lindsay drove me home from visiting Lukas in the hospital, we saw Mount Baker looming snow covered and large in the distance. My heart was broken and my brain completely foggy from worry and sleep deprivation, but I remember this moment very clearly: I looked at Mount Baker and made a choice. I chose to align with the reality that Lukas would be climbing this mountain in the future. I saw him strong and healthy, very much like he is today. I made the choice not to smother him with my worry and anxiety. I chose to raise him steeped in adventure, nature and possibility, instead of smothering him with my own fear. It's not easy. Some days, I fight panic when I think what could happen, that he could die from a simple fall and internal bleeding. Some days, I have to remind myself to choose a different way of thinking, or Steve has to talk some sense into me. But mostly, I think we are giving Lukas the kind of life he deserves and craves. (Please remind me of this when I start freaking out.)

Yesterday, we also said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. It was sad for all of us, since we had gotten along so well. Our days with them were filled with heart-to-heart talks, good food, pool time, and visits to knitting stores (Donna, I already miss my knitting buddy!). 

Donna and I went to an English tea place, where they served our lunch on china.  Afterwards, we went to a knitting shop, of course.  I also took a picture of the scrumptious dessert, but I didn't want you all to be jealous...
Donna and John took care of the kids for us several times, so Steve and I could go on dates. Our last date was amazing. His parents had sat through three hours of presentations for a time share, and in turn received a free dinner at a very fancy restaurant. They passed it on to us, and Steve and I found ourselves sitting in a five star restaurant by candle light, looking out a window at a lake with swans, mountains in the background, and $75 to blow. We kept giggling at each other, and I refused to get up to go to the bathroom, because I was worried people would see my shabby pair of tennis shoes (I didn't bring any fancy shoes on our road trip. Actually, I don't think I even own a pair of fancy shoes...).  Before we headed out on our date, Steve and I kept joking about our fancy vehicle, so I made him take a picture of me draped over our mode of transportation, pretending it was a red hot sports car.

This is livin'!
While Steve's parents suffered through the time share presentation, we went for a hike close by. Hiking here is so very different from what we are used to in our wilderness home. Here, the trails are packed with people, hiking or running with i-pods in their ears, almost everyone dressed in the perfect workout ensemble. The parking lots to the trail heads are packed with new, shiny cars. I don't think we have seen one beaten up pick-up truck here! Once the walking commences and altitude is gained, you see golf courses, fancy houses with pools, and the endless sprawl of the city. In the distance, there are mountains and a layer of smog. You can hear traffic and police sirens, and helicopters are often seen.
And still... this all has its own charm. It's different from what we are used to, but it makes for great people watching!

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