Way back in 2009 I promised Ruby that I would take her backpacking. She had forgotten for a while and I will admit that in the flurry of buying our dreamboat, selling all of our stuff, and moving aboard, I was happy for the furlough. Recently the topic came up again. First it was just “Daddy, do you remember that camping trip we were supposed to go on?” Before too long it turned into crying tantrums with doozies such as “You promised me you would take me hiking when I was just TWO (or three) and you’re never going to do it.” With our family adventure deadline looming, I feared she might be right.
Last week though I thought I saw an opportunity. I started prepping Vick on Tuesday, and on Friday I made a last-minute reservation. I seriously didn’t think I would need a reservation. We were backpacking after all, don’t you just go? A little googling showed my the error of my assumption and I quickly righted that by reserving the last available backpacking site within 100 mile radius.
I was expecting Sunol Regional Wilderness to be passable. I wasn’t expecting stunning, remote, or any other superlative. I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised on at least two counts. I think we could have had a slightly nicer (to my snobby taste) experience in Henry Coe, with just as much effort, but it was surprising how bucolic it was. This surprise was magnified by the fact that there were a million zillion people there. Seriously there were droves of people, dogs, cows, and cow shit. The press of humanity provided unexpected serendipity too though. When we finally completed the 6+ mile hike to our site we were warmly greeted by Maggie One (age 7) and her dad Kevin. Maggie had arrived just before us with her mom and dad, and came right up to play with Ruby. She was delighted to announce that Maggie Two (age almost 7) had just arrived at the site below us. Kevin and I chatted while I ate my dogs, and then they made their way back to their site and we cleaned up and hung our food up for the night.
We both woke up early, had our breakfast of mostly hot chocolate (and mocha for me) and broke camp. By sunrise we were chomping at the bit to do something. Just in time Maggie Two made herself visible on the rock across the chasm from our site. We loaded up and said goodbye to our site (Sky Camp). An hour later we were back with Carlton, the Maggies, and most of the adults looking for a Geocache.
After a successful geocaching adventure we said our goodbyes and Ruby and I started the long hike back to the car. Going home is always tricky for me. No matter how awesome the trip was, I’m always in a hurry, and always a little grumpy. I never, ever, walk slowly on my way out. Ruby, on the other hand, had nothing motivating her (or so it seemed). She started dragging her heels within the first 200 yards and was actively complaining by 400′. Grumpiness was probably working against me at this point and it took an hour or so (I’m ashamed to admit) before I remembered how to be a good dad and trip leader. When I did I broke out my old favorite and started to sing. Ruby perked right up and started almost skipping along with me singing Old McDonald with every plant and animal she could think of, followed by Coming Round the Mountain and countless others that she could only hum (at striking volume).
We stopped at a pond to scoop tadpoles out, enjoyed some very close encounters with cows, and generally made a slow but enjoyable day of the hike out. The highlight of my weekend came close to the end. We had just completed a tricky section and the trail opened up to rolling pastoral beauty. We agreed to take a “packs off” break and before I knew it she was curled up in my lap with her head cradled in my arm. She dozed off for twenty or so minutes while I just enjoyed being her dad in that beautiful place.
We hiked the last mile with smiles on our faces, songs on our breath, and joy in our hearts. When we finally arrived back at the car we cracked open the flax, raisin and carrot muffins and devoured them. As I was eating mine I recalled what Ruby had said back around mile 2; “Dad, Carrot and Raisin doesn’t even sound that good to me, but I can’t wait to get back to the car and eat one. I bet it will taste like the best muffin ever.” I am proud beyond words that Ruby got that tiny glimpse of the power of perspective this weekend.