Hiking some of them with the kids has been on the list for years, but things have never worked out in our favor. If it wasn’t a new baby, I was too pregnant, we were too overbooked with other trips, and even a few times, we were turned back by early snowstorms.
Finally, at 5 am on a Saturday morning, the fates aligned. We rolled out of bed and into the car to start our amazing voyage.
Coming off of a cool week, combined with the windy cold temps at high altitude, our kids were pretty decked out with layers galore! I’m pretty sure layers are your best friend in the changing mountain weather and that there’s no better way to dress – especially for your kids! Baselayer, baselayer, pants/top, outerwear, hats, gloves, and good wool socks.
The goal was Mt Cameron at 14,238 feet, and we were by no means alone. Pulling up to the trailhead, we saw no less than 100 cars all with the same high ambitions as ours. Actually, many of them had much higher ambitions than ours since you can actually do 4 interconnected peaks in one day here – Democrat, Lincoln, Cameron, and Bross (though technically closed due to land disputes). Although all 4 would have been awesome, we 3 kids 6 and under, we knew that it would be a miracle if we could even bag one of these peaks!
Initially, we chose this destination because of it’s closeness to Denver (about 2 hours) and the short length of the trail. The trail to the summit is a little over 2 miles. That’s the good part. The bad part is, it’s a steep 2 miles on lots of loose rock. Though it’s pretty simple for adults to conquer, it made for some very slow going with the kids. Around 13,000 feet, we all started to feel the effects of the thin air as the kids energy started to fade.
Luckily, we had anticipated this and come prepared with lots of snacks. Jerky, boiled eggs, trail mix, dried fruit (the kids favorite thing), cheese, and PBJ…with sweedish fish for extra bribes. As we approached the saddle, we took a few good breaks to rest their little legs from the climbing and refuel them with good snacks. Also, we pushed water hard on them. Mason and Chloe both had Camelbacks and we were pretty much constantly having them drink, knowing that the only way they would make it up that high was if they stayed really well hydrated.
As you can imagine, we were quite the spectacle on the trail and the subject of lots of comments. What? For some strange reason we didn’t see anyone else out there with three little kids…weird We heard everything from “you guys are crazy” to “wow, you kids are amazing”. Luckily, most of the comments were geared toward how great the kids were doing and it gave them quite the confidence boost.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough to keep Chloe going. About 10 minutes from reaching the saddle, her legs started trembling and the tears started to run down her little cheeks. Andrew had Jimmy in the backpack, so it was my time to step up. For all of her trying, Chloe got carried by me for a while to rest her little body. After a break at the saddle, she looked up at me with tears welling up in her eyes and asked “Mommy, do I really have to keep going? This is really hard.” ”No” I answered. She had pushed her little 3-year-old body to its limits and had done her best. Today would be about the journey, not the destination for her and that was just great. So I headed down the trail with Jimmy on my back and Chloe maintaining a death-grip on my hand (a few early slips going down some rocks got her pretty scared). Andrew and Mason proceeded towards the summit.
As we headed down the trail, we must have heard 100 comments about how great Chloe was doing, and she was loving it. About half way down, she looked at me with a giant smile on her faces and said “Mom, I never knew I was such an amazing hiker as I have been today”. ”Yes, you did a fantastic job”, I replied as she squeezed my legs. Right then, I was so glad I didn’t push her beyond her limits. Instead of ending in tears, the hike ended on a high note for her and a giant confidence boost.
In the meantime, Mason and Andrew were pushing on. Although it was only 1/2 mile to the summit, it was very steep, windy and hard to breathe. Finally, they reached their goal, and stood together atop Mt. Cameron (which if you know us in real life, you’ll appreciate why this is so cook for “Mason”). It was a hard approach, but they made it and were so proud. With a big boost under his belt, Mason made quick time back to the trailhead (“skiing” down the rocks as he later told me). We met them with treats and cheers as they got back to the car. Mason promptly collapsed.
As with all our big trips, we celebrated at the bottom with some IBC root beer! So fun!
So, although we didn’t all summit, it was a fantastic success. Everyone did their best and ended the day with a smile on their face. Oh, and within 5-minutes of getting in the car, all the kids were fast asleep! WAHOO!!!
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