"I took my son on this hike when he was eight." I was told by a caring adult, "He was too young for this hike, you'll want to leave your younger ones at home." The advice was not given in arrogance or haughtiness, simply a bit of life experience thoughtfully passed on.
What does a guy like me do with such pearls of wisdom? First I hold onto it, like a pebble in my hand. I investigate online to find out if the hike really is too hard. I found a copy of the sign at the entrance to the hike that says "This is NOT recommended for children under the age of 10." Then I ponder. "Did they say I couldn't do it, or they couldn't do it?" Then I try to imagine the step by step of it. Then I thoughtfully barrel forward.
Picacho Peak is translated to mean "Big Peak Peak" and it stands like a sentinel between Tucson and Phoenix next to the freeway. My oldest boy was invited to go there with the boy scouts for a hike and it was suggested that I come along. I'd call myself a Family man though, we are kind of an all for one and one for all Family right now, and I didn't want to leave anyone behind.
I studied online, I knew that there would be actual rock climbing, and in preparation I made some web harnesses at and with the help of the rock climbing store, also tested them there to make sure the knots were right and the babies would be safe. I bought water bottles, froze some, chilled the others, and filled my backpack like an overstuffed cooler.
The boy scouts and my little brood gathered together at the base of the mountain. Someone who had climbed before suggested I take mine on the longer path since it has a slower incline. Having never done it before, I took that advice without a second thought… until later. The difference between the short path and the long path is about 3 and a half miles. Turns out trudging three miles through the desert before you rock climb is more exhausting than just rock climbing.
We walked through the desert, slowly gaining elevation until the actual climbing began. The children hit their first exhaustion at the base of the mountain, then again at the top of the mountain, and again at the bottom of the mountain, and then the last half mile to the car.
I thought often as I climbed about 'team building' events business do to get their employees to work better as a team, and I thought of my children, and I saw them working better as we moved along. I saw the support other hikers gave as they first looked at me like "What are you doing!?" Then they called out to the girls "Wow, you're doing SO GOOD!" The children were walking on a cloud of pride when we finally crested the peak to find about thirty hikers all standing and clapping at the accomplishment these children made! (Then I thought… oh Man, now we gotta get back down!!")
Climbing down a mountain… it turns out, is easy, you have gravity on your side. The only thing that made it hard was having one child hanging over my shoulder like an over sized shoulder pad, and the other cradled between the mountain and myself as we climbed down slowly. The harnesses were a great comfort to me, but thankfully we never had a need for them.