Sage Dylan Herr

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mt. Tecumseh -- Sage's First Four Thousand Footer! 2/13/10

Mt. Tecumseh Trail, Sosman Trail.

5 miles roundtrip.

Sage has been saying she wanted to try a 4K for some time now. For a while, I had my doubts about taking her out. The main reason was that I didn't know WHY she wanted to try a 4K. Did she think I loved her less than I loved Alex, simply because Alex hikes with me all the time? Did she feel left out? Was she fed up with Alex getting so much attention from other hikers? Was it good old fashioned sibling rivalry?

Sage has always liked being outside, and she has always enjoyed hiking -- at her own pace, and on her own terms. So having her try a 4K is fine, in and of itself. The situation I've been trying to avoid, however, is having her try something that she's not ready for, and then having her feel bad about herself because she didn't make the summit. None of that pressure would come from me, or from Alex -- but I was the youngest child in our family, and I remember what it was like to be frustrated because I couldn't yet do what my older sister could. Our 4K experience had to be a positive one, no matter what, and I had to make certain she understood that it was a successful hike and a valiant effort even if we didn't make it all the way up.

Alex and I had a few private conferences during the past couple of weeks. We both agreed that we would take Sage with us on our Tecumseh hike. We also both agreed that we would go at Sage's pace, and rest anytime Sage requested. We'd put aside our usual go-go-go mindset and tailor the excursion completely to Sage's mood and abilities. And, of course, we'd turn back the moment Sage asked. Alex was extremely agreeable to all of this, and looked forward to getting her sister out there with us, no matter how far we did or did not go.

The three of us agreed we'd hike on Valentine's Day weekend, a weekend where their father would be away on a business trip (so no father-daughter time would be sacrificed).

The girls came up with the idea of passing out Valentine's Day candy to other hikers on the trail. Therefore, their backpacks were heavier than they needed to be, being stuffed with individually wrapped chocolate hearts. Neither seemed to mind the prospect of carrying excess weight.

The day arrived, and we hit the trail at 7am.

Our pace was relaxed, and Sage stopped every twenty feet or so to examine tracks, rocks, trees, boulders, and snow. Alex and I took Sage's lead and therefore ended up appreciating much more than we normally would have. It was an enlightening experience. Sage enabled us to really SEE what we were hiking through.

We came to the "view" sign at 9am, two hours after having left the car. The sun shone brightly, and we sat in the warm light and had a long and luxurious food break.

The time came to tackle the hard part -- that dreadful, never-ending steep latter mile. I prepped Sage by telling her that it would be a horrible experience, but that we'd stop often, be very silly, and turn back anytime she chose. Sage was determined, cheerful, and full of hot chocolate, so she gave us the green light.

It was an Extremely Silly Ascent. To make things easier (for them), I began by hiking on my knees. Laughing at their mother seemed to add a little extra fuel to both girls' fires.

When my knees simply could not take it any more, I stood and walked in a normal fashion. It was then Sage's turn to be goofy -- she picked up a stick and "hunted" Alex and me up the trail.

Many, many breaks were taken. Here, Alex makes a few glove prints in the snow.

Many original songs were sung. Our favorite, sung to the tune of Cinderella's Mouse Song (while the mice are making Cinderella's dress) and sung in high, squeaky mouse voices:

We can do it, we can do it,
We can hike the big ole' mountain,
With balaclavas pretty,
There's nothing to it really.

At one point, Alex and Sage devised a game where Alex would run ahead, sit down, and wait for Sage to approach. Once Sage got close to Alex, she was to talk/sing while waving her stick around.

More breaks, more food.

We finally reached the sign leading us up the last couple tenths of a mile to the summit.

The path to our left was packed out, while the path to our right had one lonely set of animal tracks on it (both ways lead to the top).

We decided we'd go the way greatly traveled. But first, another break!

After more munching and hydrating, we made the final push toward the summit. All three of us were in fine spirits, having been completely ridiculous all the way up the steep parts of the trail.

And then -- four hours after leaving the "view," and six hours after leaving the car -- Sage bags her first 4K (and Alex bags her 15th winter 4K)!

There were several people enjoying themselves on the summit. One of the kind men offered to take our picture.

Views from the top:

Summit chocolate!

We lounged about for almost half an hour, the girls often engaging in some bizarre game that I don't understand...

Then came -- the descent!

Much fun was had sledding down the mountain. To keep things safe, I'd hike ahead to a certain point, then give the girls the go-ahead. In this manner, I was able to prevent them from going too fast or too far (though I did get run over once or twice).

We returned to the final, flat portion of the trail, and Sage walked ahead of us, extremely proud of herself.

Both girls tagged the trailhead sign, and then it was official. Sage's first 4K, and Alex's 15th winter 4K.

Ascent time: 6 hours. Descent time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Total hike time: 7 hours, 35 minutes.

Random notes:

The girls gave away over a bag and a half of candy to many surprised and friendly hikers.

My kids are LOUD!

Slow and silly beats fast and focused.

Hands down, the most fun any of us have ever had on a hike.

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