Updated: Oct 8, 2022
I learned three things today:
1. Adventures in large groups can be fun - as long as you're outdoors where life is good and everyone has enough space to burn off their energy.
2. There are five year old's that can climb three mountains in one week. I know this because I hiked with one today. The little steam engine's name is Oscar and in my opinion, he's a wonder child.
3. Pleasant Mountain will never get old because it offers endless routes, views and opportunities. As I learned today, you can even spend the night in a yurt here...and sit on a chairlift without your skis on.
Lesson #1: Adventures in large groups don't have to suck the life out of you.
The day before this hike, we took a trip to the Museum of Science with three close friends and their kids - all people I love and would choose to live on a deserted island with. Still, after four hours on a bus, two plus hours on the train/subway, one hour sitting in the Omni Theatre, and several hours pushing through crowds of school vacationers, our day ended with a drained, cranky crew.
The following day, we did this hike with five adults and nine kids. The feeling at the end of the day was drastically different. After spending the day outside exploring, climbing, hopping streams, snowboarding on a piece of found wood, the kids were happy and that good kind of tired. I was energized and felt grounded again.
It's true that I am not a city person. Although some people are energized by the assault of sounds, smells and stimulation, I am not one of them. But as I always say, choose your own adventure. If city's feed your soul, spend time in them. Know thyself.
Lesson #2: Five year old's are capable of a whole lot.
I already knew this from teaching preschool for many years, but I hadn't hiked mountains with too many five year old's. My friend Meg invited her friend Virgile and his three kids to join our hike and the youngest was five. I figured the hike could take twice as long, but we were in no rush.
Much to my surprise, young Oscar did not slow us down. Mainly because we were already moving at a turtle's pace. Hiking in groups can be fun, but it's guaranteed that it won't be fast. As we hiked, I started asking Virgile questions about his wee child who was keeping up just fine with my 11 and 14 year old's. That's when I learned something incredible - this was Oscar's THIRD mountain in a week! They'd hiked Burnt Meadow Mountain on Monday, then again on Wednesday. Then on Friday, we did this hike.
I was a bit blown away by this information. As I watched this impressive five year old forge ahead, I found myself contemplating our human potential. His dad told him he could do it and didn't make a big fuss. And off he went. I will think of Oscar the next time I struggle up a mountain. Here's a picture of the little B.A. dude.
Lesson #3: Pleasant Mountain is truly the gift that keep on giving.
There are four routes up Pleasant Mountain: Ledges Trail, Bald Peak Trail, Southwest Ridge Trail, and Fire Wardens Trail. Our plan was to hike Bald Peak since the snow had melted enough to expose the many waterfalls along the way. About halfway up, when we realized that our snail's pace could make for a very long day, my friend Shannon suggested taking the North Ridge Trail (or Sue's Way) over to the top of Shawnee Peak. It looked like a short spur off to the right of our trail, but he explained that it would eventually loop back to the Bald Peak Trail and shorten our trip. We unanimously decided to take this option.
Sue's Way headed downhill, through a fun crevice, past a yurt and finally to a sign for the Shawnee Peak ski slopes.
At the sign, we headed left and found a magical place for children of all ages - a closed ski slope with snow remaining. My 14 year old was suddenly having fun and now everyone was officially enjoying themselves. The kids found a piece of wood to use as a snowboard and took turns sitting on the chair lift.
We had some lunch and returned to Sue's Way, heading left to reconnect with the Bald Peak Trail. The five year old kept on trucking and the 14 year old, after connecting with the others through a shared, unique experience, chatted and parkoured all the way back to the car.
In the end, the hike took us about 3.5 hours and I think it was a little over 4 miles. My kids now want to return with their skis and snowboard. The hike that neither of them wanted to do, turned into a pretty great day for all of us. I'm sure Oscar slept well that night...maybe dreaming of his next big summit. I know I did.