I spent an afternoon hiking in Washington State’s Mount Baker National Forest recently. I am not as adventurous in the outdoors as I once was, so I made sure the trail would fit my fitness level. When I investigated, one of the selling points was that it was “Good for Kids”.
On the surface that may seem like a good deal. If kids can do it how hard can it be? Well let me tell you something, that detail is not only worthless, it is evilly deceptive. I want a metric for forty year old men with bad backs, whose biggest concern in life is where the stupid remote is for the cable box. ‘Good for kids’ tells me nothing because kids do not live in the same world as the rest of us.
I live in a world where gravity is real and falling down hurts. Kids bounce around like they are on the moon. They go out of their way finding excuses for crashing into each other, jumping from high places or leaping from moving vehicles. You can pick up a kid, toss them over your shoulder and walk. Good luck picking me up let alone the tossing or walking. I don’t know who would be more worried, me being picked up, or you picking me up, but I suspect only God would be able to tell the difference.
I was sucking all available oxygen around me into my burning lungs, shifting one shuddering leg ahead of the other, when two laughing children ran past me on the ‘Hill of Death”. Up the little urchins went chasing each other around the bend, moving out of sight. Moments later down they came again (I assume to check on their own old people) giggling to each other. Not finding a worthy 911 call below, they rushed past me again up, up and gone. Had I stick I would have tripped one of them. Perhaps not, if I had a stick I would have been leaning on it, too weary to even make the attempt.
What sustained me was the promise of a lake at the end of the trail. The dream of dipping my body under the cool blanket of a mountain lake motivated me to endure. Onward and upward, over the jagged rocks, around the hulking boulders and through the burning sun. When I got there and saw the majestic view of Lake 22 I thought to myself “Yes! This is worth the pain!” Walking down to the lake, stripping off my shoes and soaking socks, I was ready for some relief. But as I took my first step into the water I was met with a barrage of tangled submerged trees and other debris.
The fear of stepping on a sharp root and puncturing my foot, or slipping on a slimy rock and hearing the snap of an ankle breaking held me at bay. The cool water teased my calves while the rest of my body quivered in anticipated, but denied, satisfaction. Ahead of me, past the natural barriers, the two children from the trail were splashing each other blissfully unaware of my glaring eyes. Once again ‘Good for Kids’ reared its evil head and belly laughed at me. I can only assume they flitted over the entanglements until reaching deep water. I don’t do much flitting and I pull more draft than the average ten year old, so the lake quenching was just not going to happen.
I don’t know where the needs of the kids became the driving force in society, but times have changed. I grew up where bicycle helmets were unheard of and today a kid could get pulled over by Officer Friendly for leaving theirs in the garage. I was taught not to speak unless spoken to, never interrupt an adult and for the love of God turn that music down. Today to get a kid to shut up you have to shove a hamburger in their face, and who can tell how loud the music is under their headsets?
I have become my father, whose pastimes seemed to be turning down the volume on the television, breaking down social barriers on flatulence, and telling other people to leave him alone. The difference is that in Dad’s prime, the world was built for adults. Today it is built for kids albeit sanitized and risk free. My son and his three friends are all around 10 years old, not one of them has a Band-Aid on their knee and they all have some aversion to dirt. It makes me doubt their durability to keep the train going when I have long since stopped caring, but one thing is for sure; the Lake 22 trail is good for them any day of the year.