Meb Keflezighi has won the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon, is an Olympic Silver Medalist, a three-time U.S. Cross Country Champion and has many more running accomplishments. He has nothing on my kids.
They once played a game of tag with the Energizer Bunny and the pink rabbit dropped dead after the third hour. We revived him with some Evereadys but he was never the same.
My two boys have internal nuclear reactors that give them endless energy and when they get together with other kids, it increases exponentially. Their cousins are visiting for Christmas so, instead of my normal run, I took them all for a hike Wednesday morning.
It was a beautiful day, nice and cool with scattered clouds and a light breeze. I had an easy, improved trail picked out that was level and clear. But as we were driving there my son, Parker, saw another trailhead that called to him.
“Dad! Let’s do this one. I like it better.”
There was a sign. “What does that say?” I lowered the window. “Warning?” The kids were unanimous and emphatic so we gave it a try.
You know that scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas where all the kids take the decorations off Snoopy’s dog house and put them on the sad little tree? All you see is hands and elbows and feet flying around. That’s how it was as the kids tumbled out of the car and ran to the trailhead – a Tasmanian Devil dust cloud of kids attacking nature. And off we went.
They only paused a moment as we read the sign: Warning! Bee activity ahead. What the heck does that mean?
The trail started off at a mild incline and kept inclining. Ok, I thought. We’ll just go as far as the boys want to go then turn around. Boy, we’re up pretty high already. “Look guys, there’s a great view of the city from up here. If the smog wasn’t there, you could see the football stadium.”
We passed a couple coming down and I asked, “Did you see any bees up there?” The man said no. The woman said yes. We all laughed and waved each other off, but from then on we studied every fluttering flower intently for Africanized threats.
On we went, hiking higher and higher. The kids showed no signs of slowing as they picked up sticks and pulled at dead branches along the way.
“Don’t disturb the trail, guys. Let’s leave nature alone for others to enjoy.”
“It’s my hiking stick. I need it,” said my youngest whipping at a bush.
The trail wound around the mountains and crossed washes. It was well kept and easy to follow. How high does this thing go? My mind wandered. They could have filmed Everest here. Wonder if there are any bodies lost in this area…
As teachable moments came, I took advantage of them. “Look guys! This is a Creosote bush. The Native Americans who lived here many years ago used it for a lot of different things. If you cup it in your hands and huff on it, it smells like rain,” I explained. “No, don’t eat it!”
“See those niches in the sides of the wash? Small animals like coyotes will curl up in there at night or in bad weather.”
“No, there are no bears around here.”
“No, a deer wouldn’t fit… and I don’t think they do that…”
“What about a lion or tiger?”
“Huh? No, there are no lions or tigers! Let’s go!”
Eventually, the trail reached a peak and leveled off. “Let’s stop here and take in the view,” I said. (An excuse to catch my breath.)
“Aww!” they chimed.
Man! I’ve run full and half marathons and am training for one now. Can’t believe they’re still going and I need a break. Must be the altitude. Yeah! Hey, this will really pay off at the race. I bet I’ll shave 10 minutes off my time.
The trail continued down around the mountain and we descended from the clouds with lots of laughter and giggling. I told them the two jokes I know.
“God bless you! Ah, ha, ha, ha… Knock, knock,” I continued.
“God bless you,” they said.
“No. Say ‘Atchoo who?'”
“Atchoo my food well before swallowing! Ah, ha, ha!” They looked confused but were good sports and we kept going until we neared the bottom.
Finally, one of them shouted, “There’s the car over there!”
Sure enough, it was about a hundred yards down off to the left. The trail curves off to the right around the mountain again. I think we’re going in circles. “Let’s cut through here.”
“But you said we were supposed to stay on the trail,” said someone.
“Won’t we be disturbing nature?” added my nephew.
“It’s just some rocks and it’s not that far,” I lamely explained. “Besides, I thought we would be on a short easy loop trail and didn’t bring any water.”
We reached the car and drove a quarter mile to the nature center to get water and check out the critters in the tanks. My older son wanted some Prickly Pear jelly so we grabbed a small five ounce jar (for five bucks!) And at the register he saw some Prickly Pear candy. “Can we get some?!”
Since his cousins were visiting from an eastern state, I said, “Ok. You can all try it” and grabbed seven pieces. The guy rang them up at a dollar each.
They each took a piece, opened the wrapper and examined it closely for cactus needles, then took a tentative nibble… and spit it out. “Eww! It’s too sweet! Yuck! Gross!”
“What’s that?” asked my nephew. There were several glass tanks with various snakes and scorpions and such and he was looking at one in the corner.
“It’s a Gila Monster,” I said.
“It’s not moving. Is it real?”
I moved closer. “Yea, it’s real. They stay very still. Then when prey gets too close, they strike fast.” Then I saw the card next to the tank: Taxidermied by Joshua O’Neil.
We returned home. The kids enjoyed the hike and I got my exercise in, feeling confident that my two mile high altitude training would pay off in spades on race day.