Monday, June 27, 2011
Iron Mountain: A Mental Challenge and Victory
He did it! My middle son did it. He fought through his own mental weakness and climbed the whole thing without any help from us, his parents. This is quite impressive, for this is the son who often quits when things get uncomfortable. He's never been a great hiker, something the other four members of his family love. Even the youngest brother shows more hiking aptitude; A has often out walked C on many a family outing.
My husband has been promising the boys that we would climb Iron Mountain, and this last Saturday was perfect for hiking. We got up, quickly dressed in hiking layers, packed food and water, and took off toward the Cascades. We decided to stop off at the ranger station out of Sweet Home and ask about the service road that would cut this hike in half, mainly for our hiking challenged child. I'm glad we did because we were told that that road was still snowed in, in fact the trail still had patches of snow on it. (The total trip is 4.8 miles.)
Hopes were high when we parked at the trail head. C was eager to climb, but I knew this would quickly fade before the first mile was behind us. Iron Mountain is a pretty steep climb and once you are out of the treeline, it is hot sun to the top. My boys hate sun. True Oregonians I guess.
"OK guys, whoever makes it to the top without needing to be carried gets a dollar, and if you make it down you get a quarter."
"I want a dollar! I'm going to be rich!" C announced with a hop, skip, and jump. We were off.
My husband does a good job of making hikes about nature and discovery than pain and fatigue. We stop for each slug and inspect each new flower species. He speaks of fragile ecosystems. He puts moss on his face and become a bearded crazy woodsmen. All these distractions help the boys to keep on. We rested whenever C wanted. We rationed out the peanut and butter sandwiches. There were moments when I thought C was going to give up and disappear into the volcanic soil, but somehow he dug deep, "Am I still getting that dollar?" Yes! Oh yes you are! And on he'd go to the next bend in the trail, the next shady spot.
Maneuvering through the snow patches added to the hike's difficulty and once stopped us completely. Mama and boys rested on a cliff's edge while Hans worked his way around the summit, finding a good path up to the lookout's deck. There was quite a bit of snow covering up any signs of a trail.
But we made it! And it was an adventure. The view was incredible. We could see all Cascade Greats from Mt. Thielsen to Mt. Adams.
Coming down was much easier and spirits rebounded. Every 10 steps C would say, "Didn't I do good Daddy? I am the only four-year-old who has ever climbed Iron Mountain. It was like I was on top of the world and flying. Did I do good Daddy?"
If you are thinking of taking this hike with your children I would wait one or two more weeks so that all the snow is gone and also you'll get to see all the beautiful wild flowers. They will be gorgeous. And if you taking children, find out what motivates them. For my son, a dollar. A small price to pay for a pleasant family outing and a life lesson in perseverance and success. He is so proud of himself.