The open road beckons. I find myself being a passenger seat driver (lol) as I check my six (aka rearview mirror) at the cars on the asphalt surrounding us. The hubs endures my commentary, You should pass this car on the right; he’s constantly swerving. That truck is hauling so follow that one. As we leave the city the windows go down, air rushing into the vehicle. I extend my arms out as if I am flying…
We have made countless road trips, each unique. One cross country trip I threatened to jump out of the car in Texas; fuming and threatening to break our engagement. Another trip the hubs tried to make foot contact with our cat as we traveled cross-country and our U-haul trailer became un-maneuverable in a tight spot. There’s always the rush to pack-out and get on the road and as the center lines begin to blur, a restful calm sets in and we can finally relax.
This excursion I typed in the wrong destination point in Google Maps. After we left our home we realized we had left our fishing poles and so we returned to retrieve them. Last year we made the trek to Kings Canyon but, in the midst of the school year ending, closing out books and various meetings I had not given much thought to our impending camping trip. We had just returned from camping in Mammoth. How hard could it be? We should be pros at this already; considering I have two more camping trips planned this summer.
At the Sequoia National Park entrance the ranger informed us that we had two more hours to reach the most furthest point in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park and I groaned. I had a stranded cousin at the Kings Canyon/Big Stump entrance and had erroneously told her I was 25 miles away before I lost cell reception. She had entered the more direct entrance into the National Park for Kings Canyon. It was already 5 PM and dusk was soon falling upon us. Surprisingly I didn’t stress; what else could I do?, and so we made the beautiful drive amongst the giant redwoods. We watched a bear cross the Generals Hwy and oohed and aahed at the amazing views of the Sierras; excitement building as we increased in elevation. Two hours later as we approached the turn-off to the Kings Canyon entrance we debated. Maybe another family member found them? Should we continue on?
It’s so easy, sometimes, to not be inconvenienced and forge onwards and upwards. Thankfully, we DID go to find her and her fiance. And after five, yes, FIVE, hours of AAA fighting over which region would send the tow truck, at midnight my cousin and fiance were on their merry way down the hill. Another hour we trudged on to reach our final destination at 1:38 AM. And thus, our first night, our family slept in the car.
After settling in, the next morning, we set off on our hike. It was on this same trail, last year, that our family of five happened to run into my other cousin and significant other. Because of this freak occurrence my cousin decided to coordinate this year’s family trip. Though it was hot (nineties) the Kings River is cool (elevation 4600 ft.) The Roads End trail is literally, the end, and surrounding us are massive, glacier cut canyons of granite thousands of feet high. The views are awe inspiring.
But while we stopped to appreciate the beauty my younger cousins trekked at a fast pace. As we continued on our hike it began to occur to me that this is a generational thing; which I observed for the remainder of the weekend. The younger generation needed to constantly be entertained and as we leisurely approached them at our lunch point; the concensus was that we were burning daylight hours. When my eldest son made a comment that we were lagging behind I reminded him of this. Life is not always about reaching your destination; it’s appreciating the journey that gets you there. To appease my son, I did keep pace with my family. Thankfully I have taken this hike before. In my mind, though, I tried to imagine how the others were enjoying the views. I constantly stared at the ground before me trying to avoid rocks and sticks; climbing and weaving amongst the branches. I, finally, motioned to my son to continue onward and slowed my steps, gazed up at the peaks of the canyon, camera in hand, and heard the click. I did not travel hundreds of miles to be rushed on a hike. I came to get away from the rat race; not to try to keep up with it.
I pondered this as I listened to the birds in the trees, the sounds of running water as we traversed green ferns and cool breezes. Eventually the hubs decided to detour from the trail to cross the south fork of the Kings River. I was annoyed. Why can’t we just stay on the damn trail? The hubs is the explorer and spontaneous. He is the one that has us ascend 1000 ft. off- trail and thrills in treacherously making our way back down; sons- in -tow. When he realized the current would be too strong for our youngest son; the water biting at his feet, he came to his senses and opted to return on the trail. The rest of my family made the trek across the river, my eldest amongst them.
This short cut saved the group approximately a mile of hiking. It’s always easier to take short cuts. They were done with the hike and asked my eldest to ride back to camp with them; rather than wait another 20 minutes for us to reach the parking lot. And I was most proud when I discovered that my son refused to go. He opted to wait for the rest of his family of four; inconveniencing the rest until we reached them. I know my eldest is distancing himself away; the hormones are kicking in and independence beckons. But I was glad, not in holding the rest of our party back, but in the fact that he still thought of us; the rest of his nuclear family. There will soon be a day where he will choose to leave us and forge ahead; sometimes running. He will be joining the rat race of life; keeping pace to stay afloat. But for now; he is still mine. That meant a lot.
I discovered that I am at a point in my life where I like the steadiness of the trail. There was a time when I would off-road and take more risks. The appeal of finishing our hike faster was great and I could’ve gotten across the river; come hell-or- high- water. But the point of our hike was to enjoy Nature’s beauty; to appreciate the sheer granite cliffs; the aloneness of the meadow and the trail. I love the outdoors. My hubs knew that I wanted to stay as a group but what I finally realized was that the group dynamic isn’t where I’m at in my life. I don’t want to follow the masses. Sometimes, you just have to forge your own way.
Once I made that revelation I was freed. I am a social person and enjoy people’s company. But I’m not swayed by the popular vote; nor do I feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. This made me happy. The destination isn’t the focus anymore. I do think it’s important to have an end point; a goal, in mind. There are times in my life where I have reached my pinnacle and it has felt anti-climactic. Now I know why.
Our journey is always full of detours and side-trips. It is rare that it is direct, from point A to point B. And the best memories we carry with us are when we stop and smell the roses (or in this last trip; the trees). The great outdoors delivered; not just physically (exercise/fresh air), but mentally as well. I was able to clear my head and was reminded of who I was and what I find important. That’s priceless.